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Nebbeling to introduce Community Charter in next 90 days

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Vancouver’s charter – "which has been the envy of every mayor and council in the province" – gave the city broader control over land use and zoning than any other community in the province.

"Rather than trying to say that maybe we should bring Whistler and Vancouver in line with what other communities can do, I took the position that we should allow every community to have a charter, and make up their own minds."

Although the NDP introduced amendments to the Local Government Act that gave more powers to local governments, the reforms did not go far enough. In a speech to the SLRD last November, Nebbeling said that all the amendments did was extend the leash that could be snapped back at any time.

Two years ago, sensing that local government reform had lost steam and that the Liberal Party would win the next election Nebbeling started to work on the legal document with municipal lawyers and administrators. "Because the NDP amendments had elements that were in the Liberal Party’s platform in 1995, we worked on the charter document, which contains just over 200 sections, in secret.

"The product is ready. It has been discussed a lot over the last five or six years …but it took a victory by the Liberal Party to have the opportunity to bring it into the house," he said. "It is a charter that reflects that we are living in the year 2001."

The Community Charter will be introduced in the near future, and will be followed by the first and second readings in the legislature. Nebbeling and others who are familiar with the charter, will then travel the province, present it to local governments and collect their feedback. He hopes to give it a final reading and have a vote on the final draft by January, 2002.

After that point, local governments can begin to make their own laws and policies in the areas that will be under their jurisdiction. The provincial government won’t be able to offload costs on municipal governments, and local governments will have more autonomy and better planning tools to reduce pressure on property taxes.

The specifics will be announced when the charter is introduced within the next 90 days.

"The basic charter gives communities certain powers. Then they can say, ‘under this particular power, we would like to do the following’. They can then come with that suggestion to a board that is made up of municipal representation and some government representation, and the board will look to see if that request will have a negative impact on an adjacent community. If not it will most likely go forward," said Nebbeling.

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