Controversy continues to swirl around Port McNeill’s harbour rates bylaw.
At the town’s regular council meeting on Monday, concerned residents filled Port McNeill’s chamber quarters, asking why parts of the Regional District of Mount Waddington’s (RDMW) Area ‘C’, specifically Hyde Creek and Nimpkish Heights, weren’t included in the updated resident harbour rates.
The issue has caused Hyde Creek and Nimpkish Heights residents’ annual moorage costs to rise from $45/foot to $65/foot. People in those two areas do not pay property taxes in Port McNeill.
Coun. Aaron Frost asked council to reopen the bylaw and take a look at either discussing the issue with the RDMW, or switching to a three-tiered system, where Hyde Creek and Nimpkish Heights are specified differently than as non-residents.
“These people have P.O. boxes and kids in school here,” said Frost. “The last thing we want is a gang war.”
Mayor Shirley Ackland suggested council may look at the rates again next yuear.
“What we heard from the meetings we had, was that the people who paid property taxes in Port McNeill wanted access and wanted a deal for themselves,” said Ackland. “We review the bylaw every year, so it’s certainly something to take forward to the regional district.”
Coun. Graham MacDonald offered words of caution.
“A lot of people are getting vindictive about this, it’s not good for us. We need to look at it,” he said.
Port McNeill Chamber of Commerce President Gaby Wickstrom said council had previously directed staff to report back on how many businesses are going to be affected by the increase in the harbour rates.
“I would argue these people bring revenue into this community, maybe even more than what the property tax would be,” said Wickstrom.
Port McNeill resident Ann-Marie Baron said she thinks there might have been a miscommunication at the previous meetings.
“The people that were here didn’t say Port McNeill only, I think it was interpreted that way, and if that’s what happened, it was incorrect,” said Baron. “Their kids go to school here, their kids play hockey here — why are we creating this animosity? Why can’t it just be reopened to take a word out about Port McNeill residents and make it say North Island?”
“How do you define North Island?” asked Ackland. “That would include Port Hardy.”
Ackland said she has had two people write letters to her because they live in Area C, “and they understand it was a really good deal before and now the price has gone up. People that pay taxes in Port McNeill want to ensure they receive a fair rate because they believe their property taxes pay for that asset. Going forward in the fall, when we look at the bylaw, if it seems to be unjust to a great many people, then absolutely we will revisit it.”