By Andrea Arnold

Mayor Owen Torgerson called the August 24, 2021 Valemount Council meeting to order.

Valemount Housing Committee Delegation: Impacts on local housing due to Trans Mountain Expansion
Korie Marshall and Eugene Jamin from the Village of Valemount Housing Committee gave an update on the activities of the committee since the last presentation in April 2019, before current housing concerns due to pipeline workers living outside camp facilities. According to the Regional District of Fraser Fort George, the temporary permit issued allowed for 900 employees within the camp, and they are currently stating that they are full at 600. Locals are struggling to find affordable housing, as they are often beat out by workers with living out allowances of $4,000/month. Businesses are working to meet the increase in demand due to the additional people in town, but cannot bring in more staff, due to lack of housing available.

The pair, on behalf of the committee, presented several possible ways council could work with them to ease the strain on the community and economy.

Councillor Blanchette asked if TMX has been approached to increase the camp capacity to the original permitted amount. Marshall replied that she has been making attempts to have those conversations, but nothing has come of it at this time. Mayor Torgerson commented that although the TUP stated 900, the Canadian Energy Regulator only allowed for 600 within the permitted space.

Councillor Pearson commented that this is a difficult spot, and it is a major issue for 3-5 years. He agrees there isn’t an easy answer. If houses are built to meet the current need, when the pipeline employees leave, there will be the issue of empty homes around town.

Ministry of Environment meeting
Council confirmed September 13, 2021 as their date for a zoom meeting with the Ministry of Environment.

Administrative Reports
Council received the following July 2021 reports for information: Accounts Payable, Building Inspections, Bylaw Enforcement Summary.

2022 Permissive Tax Exemptions
Council agreed to move the four requests as a block providing each group the same percentage tax exemption. The Valemount Curling Club, Valemount Legion, Valemount Affordable Rentals Society, and Valemount Lions Club will be granted a 25% tax exemption for the 2022 year. In regards to the percentage, the motion was passed with a 3-2 vote with Councillors Blanchette and MacLean opposed.

Water Well
Council approved $63,050.52 from the Northern Capital Planning Grant for the purpose of a well drilling program with Kala Geosciences Ltd, as part of the Water Supply Master Plan.

Wood Stove Exchange
Council directed staff to apply to the Ministry of Environment Wood Stove Exchange Program, to continue the program through 2022.

Bylaws and Policies
Council adopted the Village of Valemount Zoning Bylaw No. 847, 2021 as presented. The Village says the bylaw will help the community with affordable housing issues, by fixing inflexible and out of date regulations, improve pedestrian and transportation connectivity, job creation and economic diversification roadblocks, and address flat population growth, minimal development and commercial investments.

Council gave the Village of Valemount Bylaw Notice Enforcement and Dispute Adjudication Amendment Bylaw No. 849 1st, 2nd and 3rd reading. The amended bylaw outlines the financial penalties associated with bylaw violations varying between $100-$500 and in a few instances up to $2000.

Notice of Motion
Mayor Torgerson moved to have village staff research “Freedom of the City.” He would like to determine if this would be a proclamation or delegation.

Public Comment
Eugene Jamin spoke, saying that the housing issue is something they need to work together on. He wasn’t pointing fingers. It isn’t an easy situation and he thinks it needs to be all hands on deck to find solutions.

Local business owner Leaha Johnson and her husband moved here three years ago to run Petro-Canada and A&W. They are among the businesses struggling to keep up without having a full staff roster. “We currently have 20 staff,” she said. “We should have 42. We have employees working 157 hours within two weeks. We have been looking for new staff and have 7-10 who want to come work, but haven’t been able to because of no housing.” She spoke of being outbid on homes they tried to purchase for staff housing. And now, they have had to close the graveyard shift due to the staff shortage, resulting in a projected $360,000 in lost revenue this year.
“When the pipeline is gone, and we have no villagers, how will we run our businesses?”

Rashmi Narayan spoke briefly stating she believes council needs to help clearly communicate to TMX the community’s housing issues and concerns.

Council proceeded to an In-Camera meeting for consideration of one item per section 90 (1)(k) of the Community Charter to discuss matters related to: (k) negotiations and relate discussions respecting the proposed provision of a municipal service that are at their preliminary stages and that, in the view of the council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality if they were held in public.
The regular public portion of the meeting was adjourned.