2015 was a very difficult year for the Village of Canal Flats. We all know about the two announcements, the first signalling a large layoff in May with the second finalizing the closure of the Canfor mill in November. All told, more than 150 good paying jobs have been lost in a community of 700 people.
So what does the new year hold for the Village? Hope. In the words of Mayor Ute Juras “I am confident that we will persevere and come out of this stronger than before”(Valley Echo, January 13th). As a resident of Canal Flats I know we will.
Assistance has arrived in the form of a $50,000 grant from Columbia Basin Trust earmarked to hire some economic development help. Interviews are being held and an announcement of the successful candidate should soon be forthcoming.
A lot of the groundwork has already been laid. The council began work on economic development in earnest in 2013 and has received a report which includes the baseline data needed to formulate a solid plan. Council members are reviewing the zoning and water zone bylaws with amendments due this spring. Consider that allowing private docks for all waterfront properties increases the property value significantly, this change is an easy way to boost the tax roll. Docks will also accelerate the sale of lakefront properties with development of those lots soon to follow. Development means local jobs.
In my opinion here are the next steps that council must take: A detailed review of the subdivision servicing bylaw must be made a priority. It includes a lot of extraneous costs for developers for items such as paved sidewalks and curbing that are unsuited for a small rural community. Then council must construct a series of transparent development checklists so that potential residents and builders can be provided with the straightforward steps to be undertaken and the associated costs to build. Council must also ensure that the development process is streamlined. Unanticipated and unwarranted delays are frustrating and costly.
Ultimately, the best laid plans aren’t worth a nickle if they don’t result in new residents and increased development. Increased development will lead to business attraction, resident retention and a healthier, more diversified local economy.