Editorial: A city that isn’t a city?

We have to agree with Sechelt Coun. Matt McLean that consulting with the public on whether the District of Sechelt should change its designation to that of a city – or possibly a town – is a needless distraction.

There are 50 district municipalities in the province of B.C. and Sechelt fits squarely into the category, with a population density far below the recognized threshold for a city. In raw numbers, Esquimalt, Langley, Mission, Saanich, Sooke, Squamish, Summerland, West Vancouver and several other district municipalities have populations up to 10 times greater than Sechelt’s and are not rushing out to rebrand themselves as cities.

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One of the arguments council heard on Dec. 5 is that “district” is confusing to the public because Sechelt is part of the Sunshine Coast Regional District. But all of B.C.’s district municipalities are situated within regional districts, and some even have overlapping names – Kitimat, Squamish, Lillooet, North Cowichan – yet somehow manage to avoid confusion. The same applies to school districts.

The District Municipality of Sechelt was incorporated in 1986. Before then, Sechelt was a village. Incorporation added the neighbourhoods of Selma Park, Davis Bay, Wilson Creek, West Sechelt, East Porpoise Bay, West Porpoise Bay, Sandy Hook and Tuwanek to the Village of Sechelt to create the district municipality we have today. Downtown, however, remains distinctly village-like and anyone arriving here expecting to find a “city” would in all likelihood be disappointed. Thus, to market Sechelt as a city to potential investors or other off-Coast parties would be frankly dishonest. Yes, there are some smaller B.C. municipalities that incorporated as cities many years ago and retain the designation to this day, but they are either much denser or casualties of stunted growth and thwarted ambition. Is this a category Sechelt wants to enter?

To call Sechelt a town is also problematic, as most of the neighbourhoods that were incorporated in 1986 remain geographically separate from Sechelt village and are rural in character. It would be like calling the outskirts of Elphinstone or West Howe Sound, or even the section of Roberts Creek lying within Squamish Nation territory, part of the Town of Gibsons. If those areas were incorporated, Gibsons would cease to be a town and should be given the fresh label of district municipality – because that’s what it would be. So to change the name of the District of Sechelt to the Town of Sechelt would be, again, misleading. And quite silly.

Sechelt has some big issues to tackle in the near term. Its name isn’t one of them.

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