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Regional district considers evacuation plan requirement for special event permit

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
November 17th, 2019

The wildfire season in the summer of 2017 that threatened the region and the biggest event in the West Kootenay has prompted the regional district to consider protective and proactive legislation.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has developed a service case analysis for establishment of a special event permit service within electoral areas E and H, one that could lead into a regulatory bylaw.

The service and the eventual regulation would require events to have an evacuation plan in place prior to staging the event before issuing approval and a permit.

The RDCK board of directors has passed first and second reading on the service, as well as third reading by content in their last meeting.

The establishment first of a service bylaw is required by the regional district board in order to exercise authority of creating a regulatory bylaw under the Local Government Act, explained RDCK research analyst Tom Dool.

The service, as currently defined, would provide for the regulation of events in Electoral Areas E and H and how emergencies would be handled.

The establishment of the service at the outset was identified as a precondition for the eventual regulation by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MoMAH).

During the summer of 2017 local wildfires prompted evacuation orders for several West Kootenay communities — including Nelway, Rosebud Lake and Pend O’Rielle — and was dangerously close to the Shambhala Music Festival near Salmo.

Although an evacuation of the music festival site was not carried out, the logistics of evacuating a large amount of people highlighted the need for the regional district to be proactive.

Doing the due diligence

The legislation has been vetted through the community — including the music festival — with the draft regulatory bylaw approved through consultation with the event community in the spring of 2018.

But the work was stalled — due to a staff turnover in regional district’s Fire and Emergency Services, the onset of seasonal emergencies and the need for a service establishment bylaw — and the bylaw has not moved forward to adoption.

The authority to regulate a special event permit service was granted by a Provincial Order In Council, which stipulates that the regional district has the authority to regulate functions, gatherings or entertainments where a fee is being charged either directly or indirectly for attendance.

As a result, Dool said the regional district may impose a fee and conditions upon the owner, occupier of a premises, or promoter and may also require the posting of a security deposit.

The regional district will also stipulate a means of cost recovery upon implementation of the regulatory function, and there could also be further discussions regarding the costs of administration, regulation, compliance and enforcement associated with the bylaw and regulation prior to that.

How often compliance and enforcement activities will be required — or what the extent of those activities will be — is unknown, said Dool in his report to the board.

“For this reason, it is a challenge to develop budgets and work plans to define the impacts on staffing,” he wrote. “Discussions with bylaw enforcement staff suggest that the pursuit of compliance and enforcement resulting from the special events regulatory bylaw would require additional staffing.”

The service establishment bylaw will come before the board again in January for approval, leading into the regulatory bylaw, as well as education of the public and event planning community.

In April it is expected that the regulatory bylaw will be adopted by the board.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that during the summer of 2017 when local wildfires prompted evacuation orders for several West Kootenay communities — including Nelway, Rosebud Lake and Pend O’Rielle — and was dangerously close to the Shambhala Music Festival near Salmo, the festival did not have an evacuation plan in place. The Nelson Daily has learned that in fact the Shambhala Music Festival did have an evacuation plan in place during those evacuation orders. The story has since been corrected.

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