Sechelt nixes economic development plan

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
November 30, 2012 01:00 AM

Plans to launch a regional economic development office have been moth-balled until next year after the District of Sechelt rejected the proposed model as "unworkable."

In a letter to Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board chair Garry Nohr, Sechelt Mayor John Henderson said his council reviewed the draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Sunshine Coast economic development alliance, but found several flaws in the proposed structure.

"For example, we feel the board and executive committee are too large to support effective decision-making and an action-oriented economic development plan," Henderson wrote. "In summary, we do not support establishing the alliance based on the draft MOU."

In the letter, Henderson said his council does support a Coast-wide approach to economic development and will continue to pursue its own business objectives within the District, while keeping "neighbouring local governments informed about the projects that we are undertaking."

The letter, which ends with a request to be kept advised of future discussions on the topic, was received at the SCRD's Nov. 22 corporate and administrative services committee meeting, with Henderson at the table for the first time since his council removed Coun. Alice Lutes from the board. During the brief discussion, Henderson did not comment.

"It looks to me at this point like we're not ready for 2013 funding, but I wouldn't want to let it die," said West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull.

With the Town of Gibsons also "looking for more discussion" about the proposed alliance, Turnbull suggested the SCRD host a workshop early next year, "recognizing the municipalities aren't onside with our proposal."

Nohr said it was important for everyone to understand that while the alliance might be on hold, economic development was continuing under each local government.

As for the regional initiative, "It's not like it's coming to a halt," Nohr said. "It just needs some talking to and some moving forward. It may not be what we thought it would."

Committee chair and Gibsons Coun. Gerry Tretick said he supported the workshop idea.

"To forget about it is not the way to go," Tretick said, adding that, for Gibsons council, "the intent is to keep up the dialogue with our partners and neighbours."

The committee agreed to recommend the board schedule a workshop early next year, with the agenda to focus on the proposed governance structure and advisory model.

Sitting in the gallery for the discussion, Sunshine Coast economic development task force chair Jim Cleghorn said local governments can still work together for initiatives such as off-Coast marketing without creating a new regional body.

"The main piece is to have one person coordinating it all," Cleghorn said.

The task force - comprising about a dozen business organizations, including the region's three chambers of commerce - has been pushing since November 2010 for local governments to form a regional entity to promote economic development and to jointly fund it at a rate of $200,000 annually.

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