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Kaslo council roundup: South Beach camping for Jazz Fest

All the news from the June 27 meeting
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Kaslo Jazz Fest Etc. has been allowed to run a campground at South Beach during its August dates. Photo: KasloJazzFest.com

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

The Village has given approval in principle to the Kaslo Jazz Fest Etc. and Kaslo Riding Club to operate a campground on the land known as Kaslo South Beach for the duration of the music festival in August.

The site is on private property, but is zoned industrial, thus the need for a Temporary Use Permit to allow camping to take place there.

“There is significant demand for local accommodation during Jazz Fest,” staff noted in a report recommending the TUP’s approval. “Providing options for organized camping is likely to reduce the amount of illegal camping during the event and improve public safety.”

Last year, another group ran the facility, and there were some problems. It should be different this year, staff told council in the report.

“This partnership is not the same as the group that operated the campground in 2022, for which concerns were raised by the RCMP over emergency access and late-night activities after the event,” they noted.

The campground operators should also be asked to provide a $5,000 deposit to ensure that if any clean-up or other work has to be done because of their use of the site, it won’t be a burden on taxpayers. The operators will also have to prove they have purchased insurance to run the campsite and protect the Village from liability.

With council’s initial approval, the TUP will be advertised and public canvassed for feedback. Council will then approve the permit at an upcoming meeting.

Rent relief for Kemball tenants

Long-suffering tenants in the Village-owned Kemball Building are getting a small break on their rent for putting up with conditions there while renovations are done. At the in-camera portion of its June 13 meeting, council passed a motion to cover the tenants’ share of the property tax and parcel tax they pay through their rent during reconstruction.

“Because the building is undergoing renovations, or will be doing so shortly, and conditions there aren’t very good, this is more a discount off of the rent than a tax exemption…,” chief administrative officer Ian Dunlop explained. “It’s really a matter of fairness.”

Members of the Kootenay Lake Innovation Centre came to council in May, saying working conditions in the historic building were impossible during the summer. They said the poor condition of their rented space, lack of temperature control and the negative impacts of neighbouring construction were hurting the organization. They asked for relief on the $40,000 they pay annually in rent.

Council couldn’t offer a direct rent break, as rents in the building are set by bylaw. But it could offer to cover the property and parcel tax portion for the tenants. The value of the support to all the private tenants that pay the taxes is about $5,000 in total, Dunlop estimated. Since it will be covered out of the lease revenue, the burden isn’t a big one for the Village. And because it’s not a formal permissive tax exemption, the break won’t cost taxpayers any money, either.

Once renovations are done, the renters will begin to pay their share of the property and parcel taxes again, Dunlop explained.

The discussion on the motion happened in camera because it concerned individual tenants and their tax accounts.

Meeting the ministers

Council is gearing up for the fall meeting of the Union of BC Municipalities, which offers a chance for council members to meet with top officials in the provincial government. It’s not a given, however, and councils have to make their case about which minister they want to meet, and why. It’s a lot of work for staff to prepare those briefs.

So council voted to make three meetings a priority – topmost with the Minister of Health to discuss expanding long-term bed capacity in rural hospital facilities. The second was with the Minister of Housing about housing in rural communities and third choice was to meet with the premier on these issues.

Councillors Erika Bird, Matthew Brown and Rob Lang will attend the September convention along with Dunlop.

Annual reports filed

Council approved the publication of two annual reports staff are required by law to draw up – the 2022 Village Annual Report, and the 2022 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI).

The SOFI report is a statement from the Village’s auditors about the financial position of the municipal government at the end of 2022. About the most interesting thing from a public standpoint is the remuneration of council and staff. Mayor Suzan Hewat took in the most money for her work – just a little under $15,000 for the year. Councillor Rob Lang drew the most as a councillor, with $12,500 in base salary and expenses last year.

Dunlop made the most money as a civic employee (about $115,000 base salary), while the corporate officer and public works foreman also made over the required $75,000 reporting limit. The rest of the staff made less than that, for a total of just under $470,000 in total non-reportable salaries and expenses.

The 2022 Village Annual Report, which is more of a reader-friendly summary of the activities and accomplishments of the local government than the SOFI, is available for viewing on the Village website.

Money tucked away

Council gave third and final reading to the establishment of a new reserve fund for the roughly $920,000 it received from the Growing Community Fund. The fund was a provincial handout to municipal governments across B.C. to support infrastructure projects.

Until council comes up with a plan to spend the windfall, they’re required by the province to set it aside in a protected account.