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New legislation and $8 million aimed at fixing Lytton’s lost bylaws


On Wednesday, B.C. committed to spending $8.3 million to keep the village of Lytton afloat for the next three years.

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Business leaders in Lytton are relieved that the province has taken action to help local government recover from a devastating fire that destroyed the village last June, but they wonder how long it will be before citizens receive the help they need.

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On Wednesday, B.C. committed to spending $8.3 million to keep the village afloat for the next three years and introduced legislation that will allow Lytton to meet its legal obligations under the Municipal Act.

“This will achieve some legal certainty that Lytton lost in the fire when their bylaws burned up,” explained Josie Osborne, B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs. “They don’t have the records they need for governance and operations so procedurally the province needed to introduce these amendments so that they can properly and with certainty repeal and rescind bylaws and create new ones.”

For example, local governments can’t create a new bylaw without having a record of the old bylaw. They can’t create or amend an official community plan without maps of those communities, which also burned in the fire. Osborne said her amendments will allow Lytton to be exempt from those requirements.

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The chairman of the local chamber of commerce’s recovery committee said the news is a welcome relief to business owners and residents, but Bernie Fandrich wonders how it will help them directly.

“It’s a good start but we’ve waited a long time for any financial contribution,” he said. “It’s a little ambiguous to me where they are directing those funds because it seems to be going to salaries and administrative costs.”

Part of the money will cover the gap between lost revenues from property taxes and increased costs from recovering from the fire.

Osborne said locals will benefit from the extra support directed at the village, which no longer has to worry about staying in the red, and doesn’t have the administrative capacity to take on the job of recovery.

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“What we are doing is removing the uncertainties that the village faced so that they literally have the peace of mind to be able to focus on those people and do the work that they need to do,” Osborne explained. “That’s why we have funded a number of positions to work directly with village staff around interim housing, around recovery and around all of the services they need.”

Fandrich wonders why it’s taken the province seven months to act.

“People who have been displaced, they want to know what is their future. A lot of people are still living in hotel rooms scattered throughout the province and they want to know why a temporary village has not been set up yet,” he said. “The Lytton First Nation is way ahead of the village in doing this because they got a lot of funding from the federal government much more quickly.”

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He said tensions between the business community and the village have escalated since August, when Lytton introduced a new building bylaw that Fandrich said placed an unfair onus on anyone wanting to rebuild.

“The new bylaw had terms and conditions that were unfair — things like a net zero program and a central system of heating, and it had stuff in there that was crazy expensive, not proven and was not really something that Lytton needed or could use,” Fandrich said.

The new provincial amendments will allow Lytton to create bylaws “in good faith.”

It’s not known whether provincial advisers recommended the village rescind its contentious building bylaw, but that is expected to happen at Wednesday night’s council meeting.

“This bylaw is being rescinded, thankfully, and they are bringing in some new and practical things in another bylaw, and so that is very important,” said Fandrich.

The chamber of commerce representative said businesses have made some headway with provincial officials who have been working behind the scenes.

“The province created a team and there is a very high level of competency now and businesses, although no longer neglected, there is not much tangible happening, but at least things are moving in that direction now.”

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