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Zincton could have its own mayor and council, say proponents

But Zincton as a municipality comes with complications for regional district
The Whitewater Canyon area of the Selkirk Mountains within the proposed tenure of the Zincton ski resort. Photo: Nicky Blackshaw

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Could there be a Welcome to the Town of Zincton sign on the border of the ski development being planned just east of New Denver?

The idea of making the community a full municipality came to light at the RDCK’s Rural Affairs Committee meeting.

“It’s our view that the proper way to manage this is through a municipality, with an elected mayor and council,” David Harley told Area H Director Walter Popoff, who raised the issue. “How quickly that happens may be subject to discussion and consultation; we really don’t know the process that has to happen.”

He said the idea was to build a community, not a resort, at Zincton.

“That’s a very important distinction people sometimes struggle with,” he continued. “The idea is to have a community where everybody has invested in and considers it their home, rather than a place where people go to ski, then leave.”

The province has absolute authority to create a new municipality out of the wilderness, and has done so many times in the past. The defunct Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal saw a resort municipality created – and then dissolved this fall after the project failed to get regulatory approval.

Complicating RD politics

The size of the town isn’t an issue – the Village of Silverton has less than 200 people – but having a new municipality in the region could upset a lot of existing apple carts in the regional government. The bigger towns and villages help pay for services provided to the wider area, and support special programs like recycling, recreation and parks. Tweaking those complicated formulas wouldn’t be easy, and adding another village would also tip the delicate balance between rural and urban directors on the board.

Other regional directors chimed in on the issue the next day at the general board meeting.

“It might be better to have New Denver or Kaslo incorporate such an area as a satellite community, similar to Nakusp and the hot springs,” mused Area A Director Garry Jackman. “Rather than introduce a new player, a new vote, and questionable citizenship into our mix of the regional district, which has functioned extremely well to date.”

Jackman called for the RDCK to ask for more research to ensure there are no surprises for the regional district when the province makes its decision on Zincton.

“We have to understand all the objectives or aspirations of the developer at this point in time,” he added. “Not just short-term economic but long-term political implications.”

Popoff seconded the idea.

“My understanding is they [as a municipality] would not be paying taxes to the regional district in any way or form,” said Popoff. “We have a lot of partnerships with different services in the area. So that is something I’d like to see as part of the report.”

Zincton’s proponents have said they want to see at least half the houses in the resort village area (proposed to be on land privately owned by Harley and associates) occupied year-round by residents, but it’s not clear just what the overall population of the community could be.

“We are not interested in a transient community, but one with stability and residents,” Zincton’s proponents have stated in response to public questions. “For instance, we plan for employees, after a couple years, to be able to buy a lot at below-market and build a home. No other ski area that I know of has ever even thought of that sort of program.”

The board tweaked its final feedback submission to the Mountain Resorts Branch to include a request that the political implications of establishing a new municipality be examined as well.

READ MORE: Zincton proponents answer questions in virtual open house