Kaslo council, November 23: Langham Theatre caught in vax passport controversy

·6 min read

Bear Smarting Kaslo

The Village has taken big strides in reducing human-wildlife conflict, but has a lot of work to do, says the local WildSafeBC coordinator.

Kaslo and Area D coordinator for WildSafeBC, Brian Montgomery, noted the largest proportion of wildlife sightings in Kaslo and area continue to be of black bears, grizzly bears and deer.

“The key attractants in 2021 were livestock and pets, freezers, garbage, and fruit trees resulting in 96% of human-wildlife encounters this season for black bears and grizzlies,” a report to council noted. But Montgomery said the kinds of attractants are changing.

“There weren’t as many calls around fruit trees and garbage, but more calls around birdseed and feed,” he said.

Montgomery kept busy in 2021 reaching out to more than 750 people in site visits to reduce attractants and do yard assessments. 109 homes and five businesses took part in some aspect of the program and made the ‘business pledge’ to reduce animal attractants.

Montgomery said that moving forward, education and outreach programs, door-to-door visits, fruit gleaning, electric fencing workshops, and supporting the Village of Kaslo in progressing towards a Bear Smart Community will help “keep wildlife wild and our community safe.”

A bear hazard assessment is now underway to identify and deal with attractants – and when that’s complete, a management plan will be developed to address the identified problems. Those two items are key to becoming a ‘Bear Smart Community.’

Langham caught in vax passport controversy

A Village councillor says he’s going to talk to the operators of the Langham about losing their municipal property tax exemption for demanding proof of vaccination for events taking place at the historic facility.

“I’m not in favour of a permissive tax exemption for a building that only allows a portion of our population to use because of the current health mandates,” said Councillor Kellie Knoll.

Knoll made the comment after council received a letter from two Kaslo residents, who said that they felt the Langham, which receives an annual property tax exemption from the Village, was discriminating against them for demanding a vaccine passport for entry.

“Those of us who are unvaccinated and Village taxpayers should not have to cover [the municipal property tax break], if we are being discriminated against by those organizations,” said Sada Nam Khalsa and Guru Ghar Khalsa. “This type of discrimination is a violation of our guaranteed rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Any organizations that discriminate for any reason… and therefore does not allow any and all citizens equal access to their facilities and events, should not get the benefit of the rest of us covering their share of the taxes or of any grants given out with Village money,” they added.

The two writers said they were not aware of other organizations that may receive any grants from the Village that are enforcing the public health order, “but if they do, our objection applies to any and all of them that do so.”

But the idea that vaccine passports are discriminatory is not supported by the BC Human Rights Commission. It said in an October 2021 statement that “the proof-of-vaccination requirement is justified from a human rights perspective and will result in increased protection for those among us who are most vulnerable to the virus.”

Still, the writers’ demand struck a chord with Councillor Knoll, who said he figured 40% of the village’s population was affected by the vaccine mandate in effect at the Langham and elsewhere.

“I am going to talk to the Langham about this, because I do see it as unfair. It does go against the Charter of Rights for our community,” he said.

Knoll, who takes part in the community’s regular vaccine mandate protests, asked staff if the property tax exemption for the building could be revoked for next year.

It was too late for that, staff said, but it could be reviewed for 2023.

The Langham Cultural Society gets about $5,100 in property taxes forgiven annually.

Fees and Charges Bylaw

It’s going to cost a little more to get some documents from Village hall, to put down a damage deposit for renting town-owned spaces, or to get buried in Kaslo if you’re from Area D.

Those are just some of the changes made to the Village’s Fees and Charges Bylaw.

The bylaw sets the price of services provided by the Village, from water and sewer connections to campground fees to renting a hangar at the aerodrome.

The charges are reviewed annually, and have to be passed by year’s end. Council gave the first two readings for the changes at its November 22 meeting, saving final approval for the December meeting.

Among the big changes are an increase in land-title search fees, from $8 to $17 per search; a jump in damage deposits from $250 to $500 for renting Village space; and a doubling of the fee to $500 for a resident of Area D to be buried in Kaslo’s cemetery.

Other changes to the bylaw include adding new categories of charges, like for short-term rental licences; aligning building service fees with the RDCK; and adjusting other fees to recover actual costs to the Village for providing the service.

New Business Licence Bylaw

The new bylaw for fees and services goes hand-in-hand with updates to the Business Licencing bylaw. It too received initial reading, and will get formal adoption in December.

The revisions to the bylaw aren’t designed to bring in a lot of new money, a staff report said, but rather to clean up vague wording and add new categories to the bylaw. It also tightens the rules around mobile vendors coming to the community.

Among the changes in the bylaw is an update of the definition of a community event (council will now decide if an event deserves that designation); changing the term ‘farmer’s market’ to ‘outdoor market’; reducing the number of mobile vendors allowed in town at any time from seven down to five (that doesn’t include vendors at the outdoor markets); and regulations governing how much insurance and garbage cans mobile vendors need for their operations.

Maximum penalties for breaking the bylaw are going up from $10,000 to $50,000.

Council approved three readings of the bylaw, and will adopt it at their next meeting.

Boat clubs lease

Two community boat clubs are going to get the lease for their marinas renewed for one year while the Village works out its long-range plans for the wharf and waterfront area.

Council agreed to proceed with the renewal of the lease agreement with the Kaslo Boat Club and the Kaslo Bay Marine Club for one year only, instead of the usual five years, for $1600 per club – a 10% increase. The rental rate hasn’t increased since the clubs started leasing the facility in 2011.

“It’s not that the Village has any intention of terminating the lease, but with so much in flux, it was thought giving a one-year extension and reconsidering in 2022 for the future would be a wise way of not putting anyone in any inconvenience, while giving the Village future options if something arises out of that land-use planning project,” said Corporate Officer Catherine Allaway.

The Village holds the lease for the marina from the federal government until 2036.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting