Saturday, 25 February 2017

Why Are We Considering Becoming a Rural Community?

The snowmobile crossing over the St. John River, between French Village and Mactaquac Provincial Park

The York Rural Community Project began only after the elected Advisory Committee members in the Project's partnering Local Service Districts looked long and hard at the options for maintaining viable communities in our area in the future. 

The following quote from the New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government summarizes why the York Rural Community Project steering committee decided to look at the pros and cons of moving to a form of local government with local decision making power (i.e a Rural Community).   

"As community leaders look at current financial and economic realities, consider resident and business group interests, and reflect on the future, restructuring is increasingly a topic of discussion. This is perhaps because while some of our communities are prospering, others are facing the challenges of increasing service requests (e.g. rec centres, arenas), aging infrastructure, decreasing population, and financial pressures.  Regardless of the reason, communicating and collaborating with neighbouring communities, including giving consideration to community restructuring, can be worthwhile."

Eagle's Ledge in Upper Kingsclear

Why would New Brunswickers want to consider becoming a Rural Community?

Why would New Brunswickers want to consider becoming a Rural Community?

There are several reasons why New Brunswickers may want to consider becoming a Rural Community. A Rural Community:
·        puts community decision making back in to the hands of community members so that communities can take charge of their own destiny.
·        allows residents to be involved in the long-term viability of their community.
·        gives community members the opportunity to elect local representatives through a formal election process.
·        ensures that the provision of local services is in keeping with the community’s needs, wants, and ability to pay.
·        allows communities to have decision-making authority for the sharing of services with other communities.

·        allows communities to have dedicated access to Gas Tax Funding.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

York Rural Community Project Feasibility Study Work Timeline

At the February 6, 2017 meeting of the YRC Feasibility Study Steering Committee, a work timeline was approved for the various steps that are required in the process of creating a rural community in our project area.  The details  of that timeline are presented in the table below.  

Notice that the last step in the process is the first one presented in the table.  In other words, we are working backwards from our end goal which is the vote that citizens in the project area will be able to participate in this coming November.   

Proposed Work Timeline – YRC Project Feasibility Study (FS)

Study Component
Target Date (2017)

- Plebiscite

Late October - Early November

- Implementation of Get Out The Vote Campaign


- Public Meetings (Delivery of  Final Project Details Including the Vote Question)


- Minister’s Decision to Advance to Plebiscite
- Determination of the Vote Question and Process


- Final FS Report to the Minister

Late August

- Final FS Report Released to Public
- Development of Get Out the Vote Campaign

Late August

- Citizen Engagement (at summer events in project area communities) and Collection of Data


- Preliminary FS Report Released to Public

Early July

- Writing the Preliminary FS Report


- Collection of Data (sub-consultant and all sub-committees) via public consultation

February to end of May

- Committees Populated
Neighbourhood Meetings in Boundary area Communities

February to Early March

- Communication/Consultation Plan Development (Social Media/Website/Video Clips)
- Sub-consultant Contract Signed


York Rural Community Project Steering Committee

The York Rural Community Project Steering Committee

We are nearing the first anniversary of the York Rural Community Project which was officially launched on March 29, 2016 when a steering committee was formed by the elected volunteers of the Advisory Committees of the Local Service Districts of Kingsclear, Keswick Ridge, Douglas and Bright.  There is no Advisory Committee in the LSD of Queensbury but three dedicated volunteers agreed to represent that part of the YRC project area. 

Since its inception, the steering committee has met seven times as a whole and the steering committee executive members have met thirty times.  The steering committee has organised fifteen public meetings to present area residents with information about the project.  The steering committee executive has worked collaboratively with representatives of the Department of Environment and Local Government to move the YRC project through the government's process for forming a rural community The work continues...

 The YRC Project steering committee members include:  

KRLSD – David Coburn, Tom Beckley, Calum Andrews, Josh Lawrence, Andrew Lovell 
KLSD – Debby Peck, Geoff Alders, Roger Cyr
DLSD – David Duplessis, Wendy Brewer, Danny Roy, David Woods
BLSD – John-Michael McPhee, Barb Hoyt, Chris Duffie
QLSD – Don Floyd, Barb Allen, Jim Tranquilla

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Growing Community Leaders

Growing Community Leaders  
Don Floyd
Lower Queensbury

One of the unintended consequences of eliminating local rural governments in the 1980’s was that we also eliminated opportunities for citizens to engage in the process of governing.  Many decisions were centralized in Fredericton.  Under the LSD system, the Minister of Local Government is the effective mayor of each LSD and the volunteer committees can only make recommendations to the Minister.

In rural New Brunswick, anyone under the age of 40 has rarely had the opportunity to participate in helping their community steer its way through the basic questions and debates that require thoughtful collaboration:  How shall we plan for land use?; How shall we raise funds for the local rink?; How shall we organize?

One of my goals for establishing the York Rural Community is to ensure that we can grow a group of 20, 30 and 40 year-olds who will participate in local governance. 

A rural community will provide opportunities for our children to grow, gain experience and assume their rightful place as community leaders.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Public Feedback About the YRC (IV)

During the public meetings that were part of the initial assessment phase of the YRC Project, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire.  The responses to those questions are listed in earlier posts on this blog (scroll down to read them).

After the last question on the questionnaire, there was space to add additional comments.  Those comments are listed below.  

- Bear Island Hall and Cemetery should service all of Bear Island. All of Bear Island should be included - not excluding any part.

- Poor roads need to be addressed as a group and this type of community group would be an asset toward betterment of their state.

- The steering committee members are taking on a huge task as volunteers. They should be able to look forward to the cooperation of residents and they should be thanked for all they are doing.

- I  work at St. Thomas University and would like to help connect this group with researchers who can give you helpful resources and data.  Ex. Canada        Research Chair in Rural Social Justice and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Sustainability.

- Suggest that you create a mechanism for citizens to identify how they can help the process – what competencies are they willing to contribute eg. Communications expertise.  The more citizens that we can mobilize to contribute, the more engagement we will get in the process (increase skin in the game). Thank you for taking this project forward on our behalf!

- How can the residents help? Have you lobbied service groups? (Lions Club, rink, churches etc)?

- Have been very satisfied with Douglas LSD over the 35 years I have lived off the Carlisle Rd.  

-  Does the York Rural Community have a website of their own that a person can go onto and wee what is happening?  When there is a holiday in the states, communities will decorate.  I get the impression here that we are just lazy.  For years property tax went up and the gov’t didn’t do much for this area.  Plow the road in the winter.  We do have to pay for health care.    

- Informative session

- Kingslear agrees.  Last time not enough one on one contact with citizens was made at that time.  Not many attended meetings.

- Suspect there will be challenge in determining a fair tax rate that should apply to large land use (agricultural) as to residential rates (suburban).  May need some kind of commitment to protecting green belt/agriculture land or over time this activity would be squeezed out by tax rate if it is not variable.

- We need to watch for and assess the life cycle and social cost of development that are too often ignored at the expense of society and future generations who pay the cost of destruction and pollution.

- Strategically include most of at least one electoral district – one MLA

-  Cost of feasibility study – who pays? How long to conduct?

- Would like to see more info in feasibility study that would address young families in the Carlisle Rd. area and make them realize the benefits ie. Playgrounds, rec building etc.

- Thank you

-  Thank you so much for all your work and efforts to date. Perhaps the Finn Report could be posted and background commentary included.

- We just purchased our property and one of the main reasons we purchased           the property we did, is that we wanted to get away from all the bureaucracy of living in a municipality.  It was bad enough jumping through hoops that a  LSD has top settle into our new property.  It would have been worse I am sure if it was a rural community.

- To give younger the work, retire earlier. Make green energy; ethanol, wind, sun, thermal fission.

- Dept. of Local Gov’t Rep. said tax rate should not increase by more than 2%.  Doesn’t  this depend on how much scope the YRC council undertakes?

- If YRC becomes a reality, communication to all residents will be very important.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

York Rural Community Project - The Communities Within the Proposed Boundary

The Communities Within the Proposed Boundary of York Rural Community

- The Starting Point - 

Every rural community project begins with a proposed boundary that includes a proposed number of communities.  During the project's feasibility study, public consultation events and activities are scheduled to get input from residents about the proposed boundary.  The consultation will provide residents with the information they need to make a decision to support or reject the rural community proposal.  Residents' input will be collected and shared with the Minister of the Department of Environment and Local Government.  The Minister makes the final decision about a rural community boundary.

The York Rural Community Project feasibility study has finally begun and the Project's steering committee is in the process of compiling the data about the Project area's existing economic, social, political, environmental and service frameworks.  Plans are in the works for multiple ways for residents to engage with the study and to voice their opinions.  Public meeting dates will be announced in the very near future.  

At the starting point in the feasibility study, the proposed boundary of the York Rural Community is illustrated in the map below.  The proposed boundary encompass the existing Keswick Ridge, Douglas and Kingsclear Local Service District areas as well as the Keswick Ridge Fire Department coverage areas in the LSDs of Bright and Queensbury.

The list of communities included in the proposed York Rural Community boundary are:

Carlisle Road
Upper Keswick
Burtts Corner 
Dorn Ridge
North Tay
Boyds Corner
Upper Stone Ridge
Lower Stone Ridge
Jones Forks
Tay Creek​
Tay Mills
MacLean Settlement 
Pughs Crossing 
Lower Queensbury
Brewers Mills
Jewetts Mills
Scotch Settlement
Scotch Lake
Keswick Flats 
Longs Creek
Upper Kingsclear
Mazerolle Settlement
Ludford Subdivision
Lower Kingsclear
French Village
Oswald Gray Subdivision
Island View 
Crocks Point
Cally Ann
Keswick Ridge
Tripp Settlement 
Sisson Settlement 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Public Feedback About the YRC (III)

One of the 14 public meetings that took place during the initial assessment phase of the YRC project was held at the Keswick Valley Recreation Centre on September 14, 2016.  The work to set up for that one (and for all of the project's public meetings to date) was done by volunteers.  

During the public meetings that were part of the initial assessment phase of the YRC Project, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire.  Some of the responses to the question "What are your specific concerns about considering forming the York Rural Community?  were:  

 - Taxation not to increase as much as it occurs now; Money management- needs accountability; People need to have a say where $ should go.

- Over coming ignorance and laisse faire attitudes to create a proper understanding of how the system works and to take control/advantage of the system and our local attributes for our betterment.

- It must be well communicated to all residents.  It needs to have strong participation from residents.  The challenge of working through the fuzzy rules set by DELG could lead to frustration of the volunteers and cause them to give up too soon.        

-   Community engagement over the long haul.  Find out what other groups learned about how to keep people interested.

- Equitable representation, a voice in the new structure/decision making; Increase taxes only a concern if we have no voice in how it is used; Development of a sense of community- great start (river unites us). But     specific efforts need to be made to engage places like Island View who are right on the border with Fredericton and feel more of a sense of community with Fredericton (although most would say they do NOT want to be part of Fredericton.)

- Not having local Rep. on council, funds not being divided fairly, needs met before wants and responsible use of tax dollars.  Keep bridge.

- Getting too big (geographical area) young people getting involved in things; Seniors in the community- service for seniors.

- Will it interfere with your property tax?

- Keswick River environmental concerns.

- Emergency preparedness (plan).  Designated emergency shelters (not fire hall).

- Protection by rural service such as fire department and RCMP

- The Carlisle Rd. would gain little in services over the present LSD services.

- Preserve river property and environment; Make sure farmers land not to heavily taxed.

- Geographical area needs to be revised to take in only the 5 communities and the land owned by the people therein.  The northern triangle which is mainly/largely crown land should not be included.

- We don’t need tax increases.

- My understanding in regards to “gas tax” access is that the money will not simply be given to us but made available as projects are identified.  If so are these dollars specific to transportation projects or are they more general revenue?

- Taxes rising; Government forcing other areas on us.

- I  hope I don’t have to pay more taxes to support arenas in the city of Fredericton; Keep more money in our community ex. Keswick Rec Center, the money etc. shouldn’t be just used for certain community. 

- Equal representation of the geographic area included in the community.

- We will definitely need a bridge across the river. Everyone loves building arenas.  If this goes ahead, let the dust settle before committing to building one wherever.

- Environment protection is high priority especially given proposed Sisson Brook development and Energy East pipeline.

- The boundaries must include all of Bear Island not end at Scotch Lake Road. End at end of mail route.

- Losing voice; Losing rural setting; Not become “Fredericton”

- A concern of what % of returned tax dollars we would have authority to administer.

- There will have to be collaboration between the rural community and the municipality (Fredericton) which provides services we use, so that costs are fairly shared and distributed  e.g. Children from YRC having to buy a ticket to play in the Wilmot Splash Pad.

- Becoming too big and less connected as well as too focused on property development to raise tax revenue.  Balance needs to tilt toward community self-reliance and citizen connections.

- Geographical size; Many communities in area; Expect communication and organization issues.

- Creating another layer of politicians who invariably care more about themselves than the good of their constituents.  The group on the committee don’t seem to be like that.  Hopefully in the future there will be good rural people elected.

- Don’t want an amalgamated fire dept. Want careful development planning; Want a clear financial picture

- Not much will change.  Gov’t will still get their share of our tax money,   someone else will be decision makers once the RC is established.  We already have fire and police protection.  The boundary of Scotch Lake Road only includes part of Bear Island.  All Bear Island not included – No vote in process.

- Lack of experience managing municipal resources; Challenges with uniting such a broad and diverse area.

- Tax increases/road repairs Keswick Ridge roads

- How would decisions be made ie. Individual votes or by committee; How will money be divided within all the communities? Fracking is a serious concern; Will existing funds being used from these communities now continue to be taken from our communities even if we form the YRC?

- There needs to be a wide mandate so lots of people feel engaged.

- Equal dispersing of tax dollars; Since Douglas is largest population it would be given a larger share of funds –  based on tax dollars (assuming this will be part of feasibility study).

-  That the community maintains control and input, this is not about 3-5 yr  governments; That our representatives (volunteer) not get burnt out.

- That the majority of the people in the communities become knowledgeable plus participate in the process.

- Would we have more say about what transportation dollars are used for? What priorities in our area are for roads etc.

- The huge geographical area north of Burtts Corner could be a drain on resources with little income.  It stretches the compactness of the area.

- Increased taxes to pay for another level of government, overregulation, land use restrictions.

- To be able to keep my ability to do what I want and when I want on my property; Tax increases; The addition of bylaws and more bureaucracy.

- We are adding another layer of governance to an over governed province;  More over spending busy body politicians seldom improve the lives of the average tax payers; Province will stick us with all road maintenance and policing costs.

- Not everyone will be equal distance… weakens.

- Transparency – where does the revenue come from, what are the projected expenditures; Who determines the budget and expenditures, what controls are on expenditures? Would the construction of the new bridge have a financial requirement for the YRC?

- Will taxes be raised? Splitting communities; How will this specifically benefit us?

Friday, 17 February 2017

How We Came to York Rural Community – The Keswick Ridge Story

How We Came to York Rural Community – The Keswick Ridge Story

by Tom Beckley

Keswick Ridge, located 20km upriver from Fredericton on the St. John River, became an independent local service district in 1976. Back then, the community petitioned government to become independent from Bright LSD in order to manage its own affairs and in order to establish and support its own volunteer fire department. LSD status was granted to Keswick Ridge, the Keswick Ridge Fire Department was formed and the community has had an active Local Service District Advisory Committee ever since. 

The Keswick Ridge LSD is geographically small, but many provincial officials have held us up as an excellent example of LSD governance over the years. On the west, our LSD is bound by the Mactaquac Arm portion of the head pond (Mactaquac Lake). On the east, the boundary is formed by the Keswick River below the Bailey bridge at Burtts Corner. The St. John River forms the southern boundary and Tripp Settlement Road forms the northern boundary.  

In 2008, the Liberal Government under Shawn Graham released and then immediately shelved the Finn Report on local governance in New Brunswick. It was clear that some form of municipal and local governance reform was in the works. Residents in Keswick Ridge became concerned because in the hypothetical drawing of lines in the Finn Report, Keswick Ridge stood out as an appendage tacked on to the western edge of “Entity 49” that also included Fredericton, Oromocto, New Maryland and other urban and suburban sections of the Greater Fredericton Area. 

Keswick Ridge is proud of its rural heritage and character which we wish to maintain. There was considerable fear that if we were folded in to a regional municipality that included Fredericton that our taxes would go up but that we would see no significant increase in our level of services. 

In 2009, many residents of Keswick Ridge began to understand that the useful life of the Mactaquac Hydroelectric Generating Station was coming to an end. That facility provides 1/3 of the tax base of the Keswick Ridge LSD and we came to understand that if a new power house were to be built that it would be moved to Kingsclear LSD on the south shore of the St. John River. That was another concern for us.   

In 2012, a group of citizens from Keswick Ridge, parts of Bright and Queensbury (the Keswick Ridge fire department coverage area) submitted a formal letter to the Department of Local Government (DELG) requesting permission to begin the process of becoming a rural community.    According to the rules posted on DELG website at that time, the Keswick Fire Department coverage area was large enough in tax base and population to qualify as a rural community on its own.  Keswick Ridge LSD had over 35 years of experience with an active LSD advisory committee and a well-functioning fire department. The idea was to simply take these existing institutions up to the next level of formality and autonomy. In short, we felt ready to form a rural community with portions of Bright and Queensbury LSDs provided they were interested in joining with us.   DELG agreed to our request and we did “get in the queue” of potential rural community projects with our KR Fire Department coverage area proposal.  However, around the same time the Regional Service Commissions were created by government and we decided to wait to see how these functioned before moving forward.  

On the 18th of August 2015, we called a public meeting on the issue, to see if there was community interest in reviving the rural community idea. The meeting was attended by the entire Keswick Ridge LSD Advisory Committee, members of the Bright LSD Advisory Committee, residents of Queensbury (where there is no LSD advisory committee), members of the Keswick Ridge Fire Department and two staff members from DELG.  Those staff members assured the crowd that we could “choose our own dance partner(s)” but that RCs should be based on “communities of interest,” which we interpreted to mean places that had existing social and economic connections, cultural connections, and mutual interests relative to our relations with other levels of government and institutions such as NB Power. Following the meeting, the DELG staff expressed that they were impressed with the turnout, the quality of the questions, and the strong mandate to move forward. The group voted 59-1 that we should move ahead to once again request a rural community feasibility study be conducted in our area. 

However, within a few weeks of that August, 2015 community meeting the Keswick Ridge advisory committee members met with DELG staff and were told that DELG was “…not doing small projects” anymore which meant that it would not be possible to move forward solely with KRLSD and its fire department coverage area in Bright and Queensbury LSDs.  For that reason, and because the advisory committee continued to have concerns about the future of KRLSD, we started discussions, formal and informal with the advisory committees of the LSDs of Douglas, Kingsclear and Bright.  Community representatives from Queensbury also participated in the talks. We had a series of meetings individually with these communities through January and February, 2016, culminating in a meeting in on the 29th of March where we formally created a committee to examine the concept of York Rural Community.  

There is considerable excitement and resolve now amongst the communities in discussions about York Rural Community. Those of us involved in the original Keswick Ridge Fire coverage area proposal are now more inclined to try this larger amalgamation that spans the river and essentially provides a western bulwark of common interest against further amalgamations involving Fredericton. Remember, this story began with concern over Keswick Ridge being shown to be merged with Fredericton in the Finn Report. Our neighbours in Kingsclear and Douglas have similar concerns. Some of our initially skeptical neighbours in Queensbury LSD are now convinced that some form of rural community is inevitable and they wish to be part of an entity to which they feel they share interests. This is the beginning of a process, not the end, but we wish to state emphatically that we believe for this to work, we need to have a high degree of autonomy to determine our own boundaries as well as the scope of activities we wish to include in York Rural Community. 

Public Feedback About the YRC Project (II)

During the public meetings that were part of the initial assessment phase of the YRC Project, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire.  Some of the responses to the questions "What needs to be protected?" and  "What problems need to be resolved to keep and improve your quality of life?" were: 

- Our tax dollars need to go to local matters ie fire protection, most importantly, highway maintenance; policing-ambulance

- Need to protect properties by way of covenants and establish certain areas for new business, not located next to residential locations (subdivisions); In Douglas we need to protect our community from decisions made regarding Quarries, unauthorized dumping etc.

- Need to protect our quality of living.  I feel that Newmarket area needs to have our communication aspect upgraded as pertaining to better quality of high speed internet and cable TV. 

- Keeping the taxes at an affordable rate not possible with the city; Being able to have a say in the way area is governed natural spaces; Control over development eg. Clearcutting of a piece of land in Island View resulted in logging trucks travelling in neighbourhood 24-7!

- Our environment and lifestyle need to be protected and nurtured to support progress and economy for training and employment of our youth locally; Fire service, police service, road maintenance;     Sense of community-keep history; Need local jobs to keep residents here; Need services and places for the elderly (seniors) to keep them here.

- Can I live in this community as I get older? Services?

- Keeping the taxes at an affordable rate not possible with the city. Being able to have a say in the way area is governed

- Property rights, habitat for wildlife, riparian zones, safety for children and all people, agriculture. Re problem resolution: We need protection so that rock concerts and the like cannot come in and disturb all people for a considerable radius around them.

- It would be nice to get some sensible people having a say on our taxes.  We don’t need any more rural bashing as has been apparent the last couple of years.

- How will I get southside with dam reconstruction? Mactaquac Dam refurbished to continue to generate power–headpond retained

 - Gravel pits and topsoil operations; And future operations (protection) from tree huggers

- Our tax dollars need to go to local matters ie fire protection, most importantly, highway maintenance; policing-ambulance; Need to protect properties by way of covenants and establish certain areas for new business, not located next to residential locations (subdivisions); In Douglas we need to protect our community from decisions made regarding Quarries, unauthorized dumping etc.

- Our rivers have always joined our communities as history tells us over and over. We need to protect our rivers and water for drinking. We need to keep our rural way of life.

- I currently feel that I am already living the dream by owning a piece of property in the area.

- Keep sides of road cleared; Wildlife are a hazard; Taxes need to be protected and not raised if YRC becomes a reality.

- Communication to all residents is important.  Must know what is going on.