Duncan residents will be asked whether they support expanding the city’s boundaries in the upcoming Citizen’s Satisfaction Survey that will be held this spring.
Since the referendum on amalgamation with North Cowichan was rejected by voters in October, Duncan’s city council wants to use this year’s survey to ask whether residents want to study the costs and benefits of expanding the city’s boundary north or south of Duncan.
During the municipal elections in 2014, Duncan residents voted in favour of studying the costs and benefits of amalgamation with North Cowichan, as well as the alternative of expanding the existing boundaries of the city.
While 57 per cent of Duncan residents voted in favour of studying expanding boundaries, 67 per cent indicated they were in favour of studying amalgamation, as well as the majority of voters on North Cowichan, so a decision was made at the time to concentrate on amalgamation.
But the amalgamation referendum saw 68 per cent of Duncan residents vote against it, defeating the proposal.
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said the issue of expanding the city’s borders was deemed an important issue by city citizens in the past, so the intent of putting the question on the citizen’s survey is to determine if there is still interest in studying it.
“After the amalgamation referendum, we wanted to see if it is still important to Duncan’s citizens to explore this option as we decide how to move forward,” she said.
The question in the citizen’s survey will ask whether residents support exploring the costs and benefits of moving the northern boundaries of the city further into North Cowichan, or do they support considering moving the southern boundaries of the city into electoral areas of the Cowichan Valley Regional District south of the Cowichan River; or both.
The city currently has $30,000 allocated to the boundary realignment study in its budget, subject to council consideration at a future date.
Peter de Verteuil, Duncan’s CAO, said that if public feedback supports a study, it would involve the Municipality of North Cowichan and the CVRD and would only be to create a financial snapshot for discussion on whether there is support to continue to explore the option.
According to a report on the issue written by de Verteuil in 2007, research and studies at the time indicated that there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to extending the city’s boundaries, depending on where residents live.
“Boundary extension would provide a number of features that many people would consider advantageous, such as the consistent sharing of costs among equal beneficiaries, having more than one elected official, enhanced local representation, more uniform accountability for local officials and more comprehensive decision-making on community policies,” he said.
But de Verteuil said there are financial consequences as well, which would mean a tax increase, significant in some of the city’s potentially new areas, unless special steps are taken to avoid it.
“Many of the speakers at our public meeting in September, 2006, indicated serious concerns over the potential financial impacts of joining the city,” he said.
“If these tax impacts are unavoidable, we conclude that boundary restructuring is not a supportable option for the expansion area’s residents and taxpayers. However, tax mitigation policies can reduce or eliminate the unwanted (tax) rises.”