BX Elementary is switching from septic to sewer in a process that could also see the school join the City of Vernon.
All were in favour of the change at the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) board of directors meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19, when the district gave the city permission to cross boundaries into Electoral Area C to provide its sanitary sewer services to the school.
The switch to sewer comes at no cost to local taxpayers and is a significant upgrade over the school’s current system, but board members still spent considerable time debating over conflicting policies.
Both the city and the RDNO have their own policies regarding annexation of properties outside city boundaries. The district’s Electoral Area B and C Official Community Plan speaks in opposition of annexation.
Board members were concerned that in passing a resolution consenting to annexation, they were being asked to vote in direct opposition to the community plan.
“Annexation only requires approval from three parties, which is the city, the province and the property owner — in this case School District 22,” RDNO vice-chair Amanda Shatzko said.
“In no way does it ask the Regional District of the North Okanagan to give consent to this.”
Ultimately, the City of Vernon councillors on the board were satisfied so long as annexation goes through.
“We’re quite prepared to provide sewer services to BX School, it’s the right thing to do, but it requires them to join the City of Vernon,” Mayor Victor Cumming said.
Annexation will take place after a referral package has been received from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, a process that could take years.
School District 22 wants to get the school onto sewer in the next few months, and the consent given by the RDNO for the city to cross its boundary into the Electoral Area will make it possible to do so in that shorter time frame, without waiting for a response from the Ministry.
Not all are on board with the school joining the City of Vernon, including executive members of the BX Swan Lake Community Association.
“The school, if annexed, will be outside the fire protection of the BX Swan Lake Fire Department and all response will come from the City’s fire department 5 km away,” reads a letter the association sent to mayor and council on Feb. 11.
“A school is the heart of any community and it is very important for us to retain the school in the electoral area as part of our identity,” the letter continues.
It was an unusual vote for the board of directors, who deal with such processes once they’ve received a referral package from the ministry.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this will be precedent-setting vote,” RDNO chair Kevin Acton said.
There is no official timeline on when the BX school will be hooked up to City of Vernon sewer services, or when the city will hear back from the Ministry regarding annexation of the school.