Longtime French Creek resident Joe Stanhope will lead the Regional District of Nanaimo as its chairperson for the 11th consecutive year.
“I’m very proud to be chair,” said Stanhope, in a wide-ranging interview at his home this week. “In my role, I try to take a regional perspective so we (regional districts) can work co operatively to provide services efficiently.”
Stanhope stressed the importance of maintaining a “functional” relationship between municipalities and electoral areas.
The RDN is made up of 17 directors representing a population of 140,000 which includes the City of Parksville, the Town of Qualicum Beach, Qualicum Bay, Shaw Hill, French Creek, Surfside, San Pareil, Coombs, Errington, Nanoose Bay, Hilliers, Whiskey Creek, Deep Bay and Bowser. The RDN is the third largest regional district in the province, providing more than 100 services with a budget exceeding $100 million.
Stanhope said 2014 will be a busy year for the RDN.
“Sustainability is very important,” said Stanhope, adding that it is the backbone behind many of the projects undertaken by the RDN.
The regional solid waste program, secondary suite bylaws, public transit and equitable natural gas rates are all key issues that the RDN will pay close attention to this year, he explained.
“Our regional solid waste program has the highest diversion rate for solid waste in North America,” said Stanhope. “That means we are diverting waste into recyclables.”
The RDN has won several awards for its work with the solid waste program and plans on continuing their hard work in the area.
“It’s one of the reasons people want to come here,” said Stanhope. “Because we really care about the place we live in.”
Bringing in secondary suite bylaws will also be a hot issue for the RDN as most electoral areas do not currently recognize additional housing units under any specific zoning bylaw.
“Secondary suites not only provide affordable housing options,” said Stanhope. “They also allow people who own them to generate extra income.”
The RDN has been working on enacting secondary suite bylaws in consultation with affected communities since 2011. The project is ongoing and has received widespread support from residents. Moreover, the RDN manages regional transit which services the area from Cedar in the south of the RDN all the way to Deep Bay in the north.
On Dec. 18 Stanhope signed a community transit partnership agreement with the Snaw-Naw-As which extends handyDART services into the Snaw-Naw-As village.
“The Snaw-Naw-As approached us (the RDN) and we were very interested in helping extend transit services,” said Stanhope.
“It didn’t take long for us to come to an agreement and the Board was 100 per cent behind the project.”
As the former-president of the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (ACICC), Stanhope said pushing for more equitable natural gas rates is also on his radar.
“This is important for Vancouver Island,” said Stanhope. “We’ll be behind the eight ball if we don’t get common rates for natural gas. We shouldn’t be paying more.”
Of course, only time will tell what the 2014 year has in store for the RDN and its residents. The board just wrapped up an eventful year and Stanhope said it heads into another one with a mindful eye on regional issues and the people living in this region.
“The growth in our communities must be sustainable and we can’t take away from future generations being able to enjoy what we have,” said Stanhope. “I guess that’s why I got mixed up in this business.”
Stanhope has been a resident of French Creek for nearly 70 years and is a well known figure in local politics and community services. He did not comment on whether or not he would run in the next municipal election in November of 2014.