Letter from Jill Spearn to Council:
To Rossland City Council,
I’m writing to you today because I intended to attend Monday’s Council Meeting, June 11, 2018 but was unable to attend on Tues., to express a few concerns I have about Rossland, in general, and the affordability piece in particular.
One concern of late and the most concerning for me, is the spring cleanup ‘dump’ at the property immediately adjacent to mine on Princess Ave. and Washington, or Moon Gravity Farms. For 3 weeks, I got to observe the daily dumping of truckloads upon truckloads of City
cleanup. Starting in the early morning until late afternoon, the loads were dumped. The mountain of debris just kept growing. Did anyone here care to think of the negative impact via noise, dirt and dust, and the unsightly mountain? This farm is in the municipality, with residential neighbours on 4 sides.
I had been more than patient for 3 weeks and then after a number of both family and friends asked, “What the heck is that mess?” Then I began to lose my patience. I understand the ‘science’. Being a humanities thinker I think of how it affects my surroundings, my day, my relationships, my moods, my daily life, working in my yard and property, let alone the environment of a residential area. The Stephanie’s have a home and yard to die for? Guess where their kitchen window, yard and deck look upon? The dump. So, I would like to know the proceedings of how this decision was made? Was it a Council resolution? I was unable to find one?
Who actually viewed this project? (Response?) After speaking with Darrin Albo, I gave him a formal complaint regarding this mess. Darrin immediately stopped the dumping. However, private trucks continue to dump there. Please see the City Bylaw below:
Good Neighbour Bylaw 2631 section 6.1 (c) the real property owner… shall not allow the real property to become or remain unsightly:
There is a concession for farms 6.14 … “conducted with normal farm practices . . . ” I don’t see this as ‘normal’ farm practices. Please use other areas of town for disposal of the spring cleanup, where no homeowner is impacted.
Another large concern today is about the tax increase for the average homeowner in town. Assessments have gone up in some cases substantially, meaning tax increases of 4.5% on top of those increased assessments are very steep. Personally, my taxes just increased almost $900.00. I live on a gravel road, that is mostly eroded gravel, and it is last to be snow plowed in the winter months; sometimes not at all. If you want seniors and families to stay here, don’t tax them out. Take the lowest common denominator and ask if it is affordable. I think the Council needs to be vigilant of those who do not have the ability to see their taxes increasing consistently every year at these percentages. Do the finances on 2% per year, at the most. If we can’t maintain the level of funding to all of the groups and facilities, so be it. I know personally that I’m close to feeling the projected increases in the financial plan are driving me out of this City where I have lived for 38 years .
You take the lights away, you dim the downtown core, the streets are no wider than the sidewalks, and in winter horrible to navigate. Oh yes and drive 30 Km per hr. on every street in town is unreasonable.
Because we have a few speeders that don’t have common sense to adjust their speed? 30 up Washington St., in the snow is impossible; Thompson is a main street and deserves 40Km per hr. Other places as well.
I thank you for your consideration of my concerns and look forward to hearing from you. I’d like to thank Mayor Moore for the telephone communication, today.
D. Jill Spearn
Response from Mayor Kathy Moore:
(By e-mail:) Hi Jill- Thanks for your letter. You had sent it to staff and it was in our agenda package. Here is our response back to you. I apologize for being a little short with you last night. Since you are sending us your letter it appears you were unaware that we had already read it. Now I understand why you wanted to read it out loud.
Thanks for your correspondence. I know you have had a number of issues with the City recently.
Your concern about taxes is one that we take seriously, and as you know from your 9 years on City Council, it’s a constant challenge. Unfortunately, things break, expenses increase, and nothing stays the same. Just our union labour costs alone increase by 2% each year. One of the reasons we have had to increase taxes was the decision by previous councils to prioritize keeping tax increases artificially low. As a result, our infrastructure deteriorated and requires work. These repairs and updates require investment, which, since we are primarily a residential community, causes our taxes to increase even though we have been very successful getting grants over the last 4 years. We now are working with a solid Asset Management Plan to guide the City in making timely repairs and investments. This is best practice for any responsibly managed municipality, but it takes money.
We are also undertaking a major review of recreation to see if we are offering the facilities and services that most of our community wants and needs. Of course, this must be tempered by affordability. The consultant has been hired and I hope you will take part in this public engagement once we get it underway.
What you view as inconveniences are actually good cost saving measures. The LED program is saving us $32k per year. While you view it as something being taken away, many others appreciate the reduction in what they consider light pollution and are now enjoying the night sky. Using Moon Gravity Farm, which is zoned rural residential and allows for agricultural uses, saved substantial amounts of fuel, labour and tipping fees by not requiring us to take the material down the hill to the landfill. (Public works estimates between $15k-$20k). Not to mention the environment savings in GHG emissions and the positive environmental action of creating a Hugelkultur site that will eventually decompose into usable soil. This was at Council’s direction and one that I support wholeheartedly. We are often tasked with balancing various competing needs and desires. In this case, while I regret your personal discomfort, the benefits outweighed the negatives. Yours is the only complaint we have received.
Our improvements to the streets have been predicated on needed repairs to the subsurface infrastructure. By making sidewalks wider, we are encouraging people to walk, bike and push their chariots in a safe manner on our roads. As a long-term advocate of trails and an enthusiastic proponent of the City’s Active Transportation Network, I am surprised you are unhappy with this initiative. Any improvements we have done to the roads is also designed to get people to slow down. It is absolutely unnecessary for anyone to navigate our roads, many are steep and with “creative” intersections, at high speed. What is a reasonable speed and what is not, is quite subjective. We realize that by having the limit at 30km people aren’t necessarily going to travel at 30km all the time, but the intent is that at least they will not be going at 60 or 70 on our streets or even on Thompson or Washington- as was customary when the limit was 40km. I’m sure you remember how many complaints we had about Thompson when you were on Council. Now, whether or not this is effective, it’s hard to say. As for your vehicle’s inability to go up Washington at 30km, I would suggest you go around by the gas station. The less traffic by the school, especially in winter, the better. Believe me, and I do it all the time, taking the highway is no longer or slower.
As you know, the City has no control over the work done by BC Assessment. Rossland has become a very attractive place for a lot of people to relocate to, relative to other places in BC we are considered very affordable. That is not within City Council’s control. We do our best to look carefully at our budget and find cost savings where we can while still insuring that our city is keeping up with what must be done to meet the needs of all residents. We heard lots of complaints about snowplowing this winter, (some reasonable, some not) those can certainly be addressed with more labour, more equipment and more time spent but that would increase your taxes even more. In all things we look for balance.
Thanks for contacting us.
Mayor Kathy Moore