Chamber asks LTC to help fund Village Core audit

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, December 8 2015

Trustees are contemplating a request from the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce to conduct a community “commercial” audit similar to one the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) completed last term for its rural villages.

John Peirce, Treasurer for the Chamber, made the request at the latest Gabriola Local Trust Committee (LTC) meeting held last Thursday, November 26.

As Peirce explained, in the early 1990s, the RDN set up specifically zoned areas as commercial nodes in the rural areas of the RDN.

The RDN recently did a “15 years later” audit of the commercial nodes, to look at the successes and the barriers to success experienced in those villages.

Gabriola was not included in the audit, as the Islands Trust has jurisdiction over land use.

Peirce came to the LTC meeting on November 26 to ask that they consider doing something similar for Gabriola.

He said, “The part I was impressed with [on the RDN study] was the detail. They were able to predict commercial and population growth.”

“What the Chamber would like to ask for is the Trust, together with the NEDC [Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation], do a similar study for Gabriola.”

The budget, according to Peirce, would be just over $10,000, with the cost to be split 50/50 between the Gabriola Chamber and Islands Trust.

LTC Chair Laura Bushekin said the Trust does not have a way to give money to community groups for projects such as the one Peirce was proposing.

As the project is not one on the LTC’s top priorities list, there is also no money in the budget for the LTC to fund it.

Trustee Melanie Mamoser said she would be interested in reading what was done in other communities. She pointed out that Village Core planning is on the long-term list for the LTC.

“I could see this fitting into that project when we take that on again.

“I’d like to read up on what [will be] done for next year...once Village planning comes back, we could potentially have money, if it is a project.

“This is something that could feed into our decision making, so we could potentially plan funding for it.”

Staff said there was a chance that if Village Core work were put on the top priorities for the next fiscal year, there could be money budgeted by the Trust for special projects.

Peirce said there is nothing compelling about completing a village “audit” immediately, although with the Village Vision process set to be completed in fall of 2016, it would have been nice to have the audit information sooner rather than later.

“Realistically, Village Core planning is a long-term thing and could be done in 2017 as well as 2016, albeit disjointed.”

When Trustees met with RDN Director Howard Houle (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy) and RDN senior staff this past Thursday, December 3, the RDN’s village audit was brought up.

Paul Thompson, Manager of Long Range Planning for the RDN, was asked by Mamoser what, if any, correlations were found in what helped the various rural centres thrive, or what caused them to struggle.

Thompson said the biggest barrier was servicing.

“To get more compact style of development you need water and sewage. It is hard to get mixed use without those services and then what was offered there like retail, parks, other amenities - for people or developers who want to be there.”