By: Laura Keil

A group of concerned residents are exploring ways to discourage vacant properties in the Valley in order to attract and retain new families.

The Dunster Community Association called a meeting last week to discuss issues pertaining to vacant properties in Dunster. Residents say several families are hoping to move to Dunster, but simply cannot find a place to buy. Some residents feel part of the problem is the huge tracts of land that are owned by absentee owners, who only use the land a few times a year.

Compounding the issue is the fact that many of these vacant properties are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, meaning it is difficult to subdivide, even if access was gained.

The future is bleak without new residents, one person commented, adding that they are not against non-residents owning land, just non-residents owning vacant land that takes it out of the pool of available properties.

The 20 or so people at the meeting discussed various options and possible solutions to the dilemma of vacant properties, including the toll they take on the landscape of the town or regional district. A couple McBride residents and one Valemount resident were also at the meeting and shared concerns about vacant properties in their communities.

Lelani Arris, who called the meeting on behalf of the Dunster Community Association, is asking valley residents to share their concerns around unoccupied land, the Agricultural Land Commission and possible solutions for a discussion paper. The paper would then be forwarded to different levels of government. Her email is [email protected] and deadline for comments is July 1st. Arris noted it could be a municipal election issue in the fall.

They plan to meet again Tuesday July 15 at 7 pm at the Dunster Hall to discuss the draft document and decide on further actions.