The Comox Valley Regional District has agreed to take part in a process to look at governance in the community of Union Bay.
The growing community south of Courtenay is part of Area A in the regional district. However, the Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) looks after a few specific services provided to the community – water, fire protection and street lights. Other services and programs are administered by the CVRD.
“Their jurisdiction is limited to those three things,” says Area A Director Daniel Arbour.
However, the board that governs UBID has faced discord in recent years, and during the summer, then-chair Paul Healey sent a letter to the Province about reviewing governance. According to a letter on the UBID website, the Province responded saying it will consider a review with the participation of the CVRD. Healey then sent a letter to the CVRD asking about the willingness of Arbour, as area director, and the regional district to take a lead role in the process.
At a committee of the whole meeting for the regional district on Oct. 8, board members passed a motion to work with Union Bay on the study.
“What we’ve committed to is having a governance study,” says Arbour. “It’s a study that usually takes about a year to complete.”
The CVRD staff report notes that the regional district in partnership with UBID can apply for a restructure planning grant and infrastructure planning grant from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to facilitate the process. This process should include looking at all the assets of UBID in terms of what services it provides and what would be involved should the community choose to convert services to the CVRD. It would assess UBID assets and liabilities, as well as analyze governance options and develop a communications plan. The study could begin later this year, with much of the condition assessment and community engagement work happening in 2020. The report also says if Union Bay opts to convert the services, a decision would have to happen by next September.
Initially, there had been an option for the community to consider incorporation as a municipality. The Province, in its response to Healey and UBID, said that incorporation can be a “contentious” issue for a community and that it would be “prudent” for Union Bay to look solely at whether to convert UBID services to the regional district at this time and perhaps consider incorporation at a later date.
“We will have to abide by that,” Arbour added.
The Comox Valley Record has contacted the UBID office about the upcoming process but has not heard back.
(The article has been edited to correct an error concerning the electoral area.)