Terrace council hears pros and cons of amalgamation with Thornhill

Two high profile individuals give city council something to discuss at last meeting before the elections

The current Terrace city council made it clear last night that any motion to amalgamate Terrace with Thornhill would be defeated.

In a final council meeting before the municipal elections on the Nov.15, council heard from Regional District of Kitimat Stikine (RDKS) director for Thornhill Ted Ramsey and from the co-founder of the large and longstanding Terrace construction company Progressive Ventures, Lael McKeown.

Ramsey has already had a motion passed by the regional district board favouring Thornhill incorporation, which could ultimately lead to a referendum on the matter by Thornhill residents.

That motion is now before the provincial government to provide an analysis of what incorporation would look like.

Ramsey said that incorporation would finally grant Thornhill the identity it deserves as a community which has long been distinct from Terrace.

“The invisible folks, that’s us,” said Ramsey, maintaining that a Thornhill empowered through incorporation would work closely with Terrace city council to achieve regional goals.

McKeown told council the city should request that the provincial government also do a study of the opposite scenario to see if the region’s interests would be best served by amalgamation.

There has been a lot of talk leading up to the elections about broad land-use planning, and various groups and individuals have been lobbying for different long term strategies to allow Terrace to grow dynamically, including extending municipal boundaries north.

For McKeown, the Keith Estates plan for changing large parts of South Terrace along Keith Ave. west of the Sande Overpass from heavy industrial usage to a mix of commercial and residential and light industrial means that Terrace businesses would benefit if Thornhill joined Terrace because these businesses could move into the plentiful spaces offered on the Thornhill side and still pay taxes to Terrace.

Councillors Lynne Christiansen, Bruce Bidgood, Stacey Tyers and James Cordeiro all spoke as to why they see amalgamation as being either economically dangerous to Terrace or unfair to Thornhill.

Councilor Brian Downie called the merits of amalgamation or incorporation “speculation” at this point before the numbers were crunched.

Bidgood said that too much of the talk is about how much amalgamation would benefit Terrace and not what the benefits are for Thornhill.

Christiansen reminded council that Thornhill has already voted against amalgamation and Tyers has said before that Terrace has a big enough infrastructure defect without taking on another community’s load. Cordeiro wondered about the onerous and expensive process of vastly expanding the city’s bureaucracy to accommodate Thornhill as well as redrafting the community plan.

Ultimately the decision about whether to proceed to request the provincial government for a study of the amalgamation option will be up to the newly elected council, said outgoing mayor Dave Pernarowski who has come out in favour of the idea of amalgamation.

“This council made the right steps tonight in that we’ve received the presentations that we heard and it’s certainly a worthy conversation for the new council and it’s an important one,” said Pernarowski.