Establishing a bylaw for a Regional Parks and Trails Service hit a snag Tuesday as directors debated a revision to the governance structure proposed by the Town of Comox.
Members of the proposed nine-person parks and trails committee would receive one vote for every 10,000 constituents. Affirmative votes of two-thirds of members is required for all decisions and recommendations. Comox council has requested that it and one other jurisdiction be able to defeat recommendations at the committee level.
At the CVRD board meeting Tuesday, Comox director Maureen Swift said the proposed revision provides a means of protection, and allows Comox control over how much to spend and on what.
“There are no bad parks, how are we going to limit this?” she said, noting Comox does not anticipate large purchases within its boundaries. “Once we’re in the service, we cant get out.”
Fellow Comox director Ken Grant said the intention is to protect the citizens of Comox.
“We want to make sure we get it right from the beginning,” Grant said. “There’s a lot of dollars at stake here in some of these…It’s giving us some comfort that we’re not going to get stuck paying a bunch of money for something we don’t want.”
A Regional Parks Service would help to protect and preserve natural areas, and develop a network of greenways and trails.
While he understands where Comox is coming from, Area A director Daniel Arbour said the proposal can yield “unintended consequences.”
Area B director Arzeena Hamir said it’s important for each area and municipality to work together to protect a greater amount of park land. She notes the financial backing of the current regional parks service has not been enough to secure the purchase of certain parcels.
“I’m very sure we can work together on this,” Hamir said.
Courtenay director Wendy Morin would also like to see a more collaborative approach. She is concerned about the language in the motion from Comox that states, ‘the ability to defeat recommendations.’
“It brought up some flags for me in terms of the intention,” Morin said.
Courtenay director Melanie McCollum said the proportion of votes, Comox plus one, would be an acceptable change as she understands reservations around the unknowns.
“These are big purchase decisions in the future,” she said. “Generally land is not getting any cheaper.”
Grant moved an amendment to bump the affirmative vote of two-thirds to 75 per cent. McCollum seconded the motion.
“I am concerned about establishing a service that has such a high bar for every decision, and the potential of the unintended consequences,” CAO Russell Dyson said. “The decisions you make now will last for the service.”
Courtenay director Doug Hillian hopes the item can go back to Comox council for a rethink.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Hillian said of the proposed regional parks service. “I really don’t want to lose it on the basis of this particular point.”
Grant, however, does not expect members to change their minds if the item goes back to Comox council.
“I don’t think it’s a big ask,” he said.
Hamir said 75 per cent provides an uneven balance in terms of veto power to certain areas. Grant said it is “not our intention to give veto power.”
His proposed amendment did not pass. Directors agreed to refer the item to the next board meeting on Tuesday, June 28.