Kelowna, B.C., June 26th, 2015
Over the course of several public meetings held last summer, the Big White Chamber of Commerce was given the remit from both the community and the resort to investigate the possibility of Big White becoming a Mountain Resort Municipality, much like Sun Peaks Resort in Kamloops, B.C. Over the last 12 months, thorough research has been done to explore this option, from fact finding and learning from other municipalities to liaising with the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
Recently, the chamber met with senior officials from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development in Victoria, B.C. As a result, it was decided that although Big White is a growing community likely to expand to a point where municipality could be viable, it has yet to meet these conditions from a provincial perspective. The current population base of Big White stands at approximately 300, and while this number is continuously growing, it is still too low to meet provincial criteria for effective municipal governance. The financial commitment of ski hill road maintenance at Big White, which is currently 11km, would be fiscally impossible to manage without a major tax increase for residents.
The Ministry officials were, however, very supportive of Big White’s need for new and different services as it grows into a year-round operation with more families, retirees, and entrepreneurs moving there permanently. Officials recommended a better short-term approach, which involves the formation of a Local Community Commission (LCC). This would comprise of four elected members from the community, plus the Regional Director from RDKB.
Their remit is to control the budget and management of a specified set of services at a local level (i.e. security or garbage management), rather than by the distant civil servants in Trail. This may help alleviate the community’s growing concerns that their interests are underrepresented when regional decisions are made that could affect Big White. There are currently only 5 LLCs in the province: Bear Lake, Olalla, Coal Harbour, Fort Fraser and Charlie Lake. Big White could become the sixth.