A referendum to create a conservation fund in three rural areas of the Regional District of Central Kootenay narrowly passed Saturday.
Residents of areas A (East Shore), D (Rural Kaslo) and E (Rural Nelson) collectively voted 1,128 to 1,042 in favour of the proposal, which will see residents pay a $15 parcel tax to raise $106,500 per year for various conservation projects.
The fund is expected to be administered by the Kootenay Conservation Program, similar to an arrangement in East Kootenay where $1.5 million has been given out for 44 projects since 2008.
The referendum passed at only five of 20 polling stations, failed in 12, and there were three ties, but was approved overall. The greatest support was registered in Crawford Bay, Kaslo, and Procter, while the greatest opposition was in Balfour and Wynndel. Most other polling stations were separated by only a few votes.
Area E director Ramona Faust speculated the difference in support between Balfour and Procter may have been due to Balfour having a greater number of high value homes, “and people are at their taxation limit.”
“The other possibility is that there are conservation organizations in the Harrop-Procter community that can envision the benefit of a fund such as the one proposed by the referendum,” she said.
Area A director Garry Jackman said the wide range in support suggested there may have been “inadequate information around the purpose and oversight of the fund in some of our communities.”
“This could have been linked with stronger voices putting out their own interpretations such as what impact the fund would have on the working land base with subsequent negative impacts on the forestry sector,” he said. “The fund is of course set up to deal more with private land and with issues around the lake itself.”
Area D director Andy Shadrack said he was “delighted” with the outcome, and noted his constituents stated water stewardship and ecosystem protection were among their highest value priorities in a 2008 official community plan survey. They voted 55.2 per cent in favour of the fund.
Overall voter turnout was 41 per cent.