Darryl Chipman has lived in Blind Bay, British Columbia for almost two decades. He says he likes the small rural community as it is and doesn’t want to see it merge with the nearby town of Sorrento.
“The communities, as they were created, were not designed or even envisioned to be a municipality,” Chipman told CBC’s Doug Herbert. “People just want to live their lives, not worry about over-government and higher taxes.”
Chipman and nearly 3,000 other residents of Blind Bay and Sorrento, both located about 86 kilometers northeast of Kamloops, will be able to vote in a referendum on April 30, hosted by the Regional District of Columbia Shuswap, and decides whether the two towns should be incorporated into one municipality called the District of Sorrento-Blind Bay.
The district also allows residents to head to the polls early on Wednesdays or vote by mail on Election Day. They must have lived or owned property in Blind Bay or Sorrento for at least 30 days before voting.
Incorporation means higher taxes
Last month, the district board unanimously approved the decision to hold a plebiscite, after reviewing the incorporation study report it had been commissioned with the approval of the British Columbia Ministry of Municipal Affairs in February 2019.
The latest census data shows that the combined population of Blind Bay (1,576) and Sorrento (1,309) has jumped more than 10% in the past five years, compared to a 12.6% increase in the last same period in Electoral Area C of the district, which the two communities are currently part of.
Electoral Area C Director Paul Demenok, who also oversees communities such as Eagle Bay, Shuswap Lake Estates and Sunnybrae, said while the majority of referendum voters favored incorporating Blind Bay and Sorrento, the district would propose a mayor and six councilors for what could be the 162nd municipality in the province.
The district study report estimates that most Blind Bay and Sorrento homeowners would pay between $300 and $600 more each year if incorporated, due not only to increased services and higher police, but also the need to rent space for a municipal hall, and the need to create a long-term reserve for capital projects.
More Provincial Grants
Demenok admits Sorrento-Blind Bay residents may see a heavier tax bill, but he also asks them to see the positive side of being part of a new municipality that enjoys more autonomy than being unincorporated. society under the governance of the regional district.
“The most important thing is … local decision-making and therefore better decisions, because they are made by the inhabitants rather than the people [from the regional district] who don’t live here,” he said.
Demenok says the new municipality could qualify for more provincial grants than electoral areas, citing the incorporation of Clearwater, British Columbia, as a municipality in December 2007.
The Clearwater neighborhood said it received a total of $15.3 million in provincial grants over the 10 years after incorporation, which was spent on capital projects and job creation.
But Chipman says he and many other Blind Bay residents he has spoken to are unimpressed – they just want to be left alone to live their idyllic lives.
“People just want to live their lives, enjoy the golf course, enjoy the lake and everything,” he said. “I believe this area is just not ready for incorporation at this point.”
How to vote
Advance voting will take place Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the regional district office at 555 Harbourfront Drive NE in Salmon Arm, and at the Shuswap Lake Estates Hall at 2405 Centennial Drive in Blind Bay.
General voting on April 30 will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Sorrento Memorial Hall at 1150 Passchendaele Road and Blind Bay Memorial Hall at 2510 Blind Bay Road.
Mail-in ballots must be received by the District Chief Electoral Officer at the District Office no later than 8:00 p.m. on Election Day.