When Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton speaks of bringing positive change to the district, he’s talking about a shift in process and attitude.
Positive change was a recurring theme in the mayor’s recent campaign for election. Asked what that means, he says it’s about being more proactive in dealing with the issues at hand, and with people’s concerns. It’s about seeing what works for the district, and if it works, doing what can be done to make it happen. Positive change, says the mayor, has a lot do with attitude.
“That’s the biggest positive change that you can make in this community, is open the doors, be welcoming,” says Trouton. “If people want to invest money in this community, whether they’re buying a house or starting a business, or just summering here, I think we have to be helpful, be positive, as opposed to giving parking tickets….”
Trouton says this is the same approach he takes to personal projects, and that it comes from the heart.
The mayor has come under fire, however, for some of the changes at the district that occurred right after he was elected: council’s firing of former administrator Alan Harris, the retirement announcements of deputy manager Mary Geall and planner Steve Noakes. And even councillors were critical when the mayor’s own development, an affordable housing project, wound up on the agenda of the first district committee of the whole (COW) meeting.
Trouton assures, however, that his development has nothing to do with anything that’s gone on at the administrative level.
“The termination of Alan’s contract was done by council in general,” says Trouton. “Council as a whole, we wanted to go in a different direction. That’s our exercise to do that. That has nothing to do with me personally.”
Regarding Geall and Noakes, he says their departure is amicable and he understands and supports their decision.
Trouton has been working to develop his Parksville property for more than six years. In Dec. 2009, he received approval from the Agricultural Land Commission to remove the property from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for development of affordable housing. At the Feb. 8 COW meeting, Sicamous councillors (minus the mayor, who removed himself due to conflict of interest) agreed to forward Trouton’s development to council. The developer is seeking variances to phase in required municipal works (curb, sidewalk, lighting, etc.) along Parksville Street and Larch Avenue.
Responding to public criticism suggesting his development is now receiving special attention from district staff, Trouton notes the past mayor and council were supportive of the project and helped to bring it to where it is today. And, while he’s unsure of why it wound up on the new council’s first COW meeting, he has neither said nor done anything to influence staff. Doug Ruttan, the district’s recently hired interim administrator, backs this up, stating he’s not seen anything suggesting the mayor’s project has received special attention. He explains, however, that the proposal for phasing was received late last year, and there is a deadline looming on the project
“It became obvious there was an Agricultural Land Commission deadline, that this project had to be done by a certain date or the project was dead,” said Ruttan, noting the project could default back to the ALR in the fall.
“I don’t perceive anything has been intended to be fast-tracked or slowed down. It was a recognition that there was a date there. If it didn’t go to council for two or three months, it may cause a heartburn at the other end, which was not our intention.
“Our intention is to provide the process and get the hell out of the way and let the decision-makers do what they need to do, and that’s what happened.”
Trouton says he doesn’t expect to make a fortune off his affordable housing project, nor does he intend to lose his shirt. He says it has to be practical for it to proceed.
“And that’s with any development,” says Trouton. “If we go into it with that open-mindedness and that open attitude, we’ll have people wanting to do business here again.”
Trouton is a firm believer that a positive attitude can go a long way. He hopes to instill that attitude in the community by bringing back events and parades and things that create civic pride.
“We already have the natural resources, the views, the lakes, the mountains and the rivers, it’s a beautiful place,” says Trouton. “We’ve just got to have fun with it.”