Election issue: Thornhill

Moves underway to give Thornhill municipal status

  • Nov. 12, 2014 11:00 a.m.

Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine Thornhill director Ted Ramsey wants to see Thornhill become incorporated as a stand alone municipality, saying there are too many people living within its boundaries to be governed effectively by the regional district.

“A regional district is not intended, and has not ever been intended, to run a community the size of Thornhill,” he said late last month.

He added that with incorporation, Thornhill would still be a part of the regional district as Terrace is but wouldn’t be governed by the regional district anymore.

“Thornhill needs to look after itself,” he said, adding that right now it’s being governed by people from Dease Lake and Hazelton “and that’s just wrong.”

Ramsey put a motion on the table at the regional district board meeting in September to start the process of incorporation, which was seconded by Terrace city representative Stacey Tyers and voted on and passed by the board.

The regional district has since sent a letter to the Ministry of Sport, Community and Cultural Development to ask how to proceed on incorporation.

Based on a favourable response from the province to the idea of incorporation, a consultant would take a look at Thornhill and indicate what all of its options are, said Ramsey.

And any prospect of incorporation would ultimately have to be approved by Thornhill residents in a referendum.

A referendum would be held to ask the people of Thornhill if they wanted to incorporate and provide them with the options, after the people were advised of the pros and cons of it, said Ramsey.

“I think the timing is good, the future is bright and it’s one of the most exciting things since Thornhill was started,” said Ramsey.

But while Thornhill residents would ultimately see the creation of a separate administrative structure, Ramsey is predicting that its residents will continue to pay for services in Terrace in the same fashion as they do now.

Thornhill residents, through specific tax assessments, pay to help support the Terrace Public Library and the Terrace Sportsplex.

“Why duplicate services?” he said.

Ramsey’s governance vision for Thornhill is to get ownership from the school district of the closed Thornhill Junior Secondary School and use it for a town hall.

He’s also in contact with a wood pellet company he hopes will settle in Thornhill and add to its tax base and provide 300 jobs.

“The community is going to blossom,” said Ramsey.

Whereas Thornhill now has one member on the regional district board, Ramsey suggests that could increase to two, just as is the case with Terrace.

“It would be very little change, except we’d govern ourselves,” he said about Thornhill.

“Thornhill should’ve done this 20 years ago but there was no incentive,” he said, adding that a community base is well established. “Old Thornhill as we know it is done,” said Ramsey.

Just the facts

According to Andrew Webber, regional district manager planning and economic development, Thornhill, electoral area E, has a population of 3,988 plus another 95 residents at Kulspai, which is the  Kitselas reserve on Queensway Drive., for a total around 4,000 in the last census.

The boundaries are  Queensway Dr. to the hill by the CN bridge, not quite to the Copper River to homes referred to as Copper City (by Azorcan along Hwy 16), and along Old Lakelse Lake Road just up to the Thornhill landfill, he said.

Upon incorporation, classification of whether Thornhill would be considered a village, town or city would be based on population and area.

There are four classifications set out in the Local Government Act: a village is less than 2500; a town is bigger than a village but not greater than 5000; a city is bigger than a town (so greater than 5000); a district can have any population but if the area is greater than 800 hectares and population density is less than 5 people per hectare (2.5 acres), it is classified as a district.

Back in 1997

While Thornhill residents could very well go to the polls in the next several years to decide if they wish to incorporate, they were by no means thrilled when asked about the idea of amalgamating with Terrace in a 1997 referendum.

A ‘yes’ vote was needed by both communities for amalgamation to take place but 58 per cent of the 1,301 Thornhill voters who went to the polls in October 1997 rejected the idea.

By contrast, 87 per cent of the 1,483 Terrace voters who cast ballots favoured the idea.

The prospect of rising taxes, which was acknowledged in the run up to the vote that year,, was cited often by Thornhill voters as a reason for saying ‘no’ to joining with Terrace in one large municipality. Information prepared at the time of the vote did indicate that while Thornhill residents would experience a modest tax hike phased in over five years, businesses would be affected more in order to bring taxes in line with what Terrace businesses were paying.