During Clearwater’s recent All Candidates Forum the two candidates for Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) director Area A, Tim Pennell and Carol Schaffer, took questions from local residents on everything from the number of dwellings allowed on an acreage to road maintenance in Wells Gray Park.
The first question posed was whether either candidate would support a second dwelling on acreages of more than 10 to 20 acres, as there are current regulations on this issue.
A second dwelling is only allowed on such a property if it’s home to a parent or dependant, but after the dwelling is no longer in use, it has to be dismantled and taken down.
Schaffer, who is running for re-election of TNRD Area A, has lived in the North Thompson Valley since 1976 and has 33 years of experience in Clearwater’s court services as a court administer and justice of the peace.
Her answer to the question on dwellings was, “Yes I would support two dwellings on it. Right now, like you say, if there’s a family member on it, there’s allowed two dwellings and we’d have to look into why there’d have to be a second dwelling on there, but I would support it.”
Pennell, who’s held the position of TNRD director Area A in the past, counts his previous track record as an active director with such accomplishments as the rebuilding of three rural community halls and the construction of the Vavenby cell tower as part of his platform.
Regarding the issue of the number of dwellings on an acreage, he also supports the idea, saying, “I’m probably on record as having supported that in the past… so I have supported that… and I continue to do so.”
Another concern brought up at the forum was the problem of road maintenance in Wells Gray Park, with the resident who brought up the issue describing the potholes as historic.
Pennell admitted this has been a tough issue to tackle as it’s a provincial problem, and it’s been difficult to get provincial government to look at addressing it.
“BC Parks has been a tough issue to deal with on the roads, they keep saying no money, we’ve heard that over and over; constant lobbying at the provincial level and utilizing UBCM have been the normal way of doing it,” Pennell said, adding perhaps taking some of the people who make these decisions for a cruise on these roads might help get their attention, but essentially it’s out of the TNRD’s jurisdiction.
“Our hands are tied, all we can do is lobby and lobby some more; you have to work in cooperation with them, you can’t embarrass them, that just gets you nowhere—we’ve met several times with ministers over the years—it’s just banging our head against the wall, but we keep trying.”
Schaffer said she went to the Union of B.C. Municipalities earlier in the year and met with the minister responsible for roads, who agreed to another meeting with the TNRD and District of Clearwater to come up with a solution, though it might not happen in the near future.
“They promised they’d look at it,” Schaffer said.
“We did have one meeting with them and they talked about wildfires instead of what we wanted to talk about; that’s why we went back down to the provincial government, to speak with them, so we could get something done about the park roads and the trails.”
Another question posed to the TNRD candidates involved pursuing UNESCO Global Geopark status for Wells Gray Park, which would make it a unified area that furthers the protection and use of its geological heritage, and also help the well-being of the people who live in the area.
Answers from both candidates didn’t sound hopeful, however.
“When Geoparks were proposed, I did put out a lot of information—I put it in stores and libraries in our area, but it wasn’t very well-received and right now the TNRD has put it to bed for at least 25 years,” Schaffer said to audible gasps and whispers from the audience.
Pennell said he’s been involved with the idea of Geoparks since it was first brought up, and while trying to gather information about it, had a hard time getting answers to some of the important questions, so he was never able to make a final decision on the topic.
“I don’t think the people in the area feel quite strongly about it at this point, so spending more funds on it, I don’t think would be viable,” he added.
“That said, if there was a large group that came to me, and I mean larger than just a dozen people, I would be willing to look at it again. Just because the TNRD says it’s put to bed, doesn’t mean it’s put to bed—we’ve seen how things change with the politician in office, but it’s something that if there was a real want from the community, and that’s the only way it’ll be successful, then it would be looked at.”