By Steve Hubrecht
The Village of Radium Hot Springs became the first municipality in the Columbia Valley to adopt an official accessibility plan last week.
All municipalities in B.C. were required to have plans in place by Sept. 1 this year under the Accessible British Columbia Act. Few B.C. municipalities met the deadline and Radium, which adopted its plan at its Monday, Sept. 25 council meeting (its second meeting after the Sept. 1 deadline) was the only municipality here in the Columbia Valley to come close. The District of Invermere and the Village of Canal Flats have opted to instead come under the umbrella of the larger-scale Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) accessibility plan, which is still in progress.
Radium Mayor Mike Gray told the Pioneer that Radium may one day in the future also go under the RDEK’s umbrella when it comes to accessibility, but for now “we’d almost completed our own plan, and so we wanted to see it through.” Gray credited Radium corporate officer Jill Logan for doing much of the work to get the plan done.
The plan, which was created by Radium’s volunteer accessibility community, identifies several accessibility barriers in the village, most of which fall into three categories: issues with sidewalks; issues with parks and green space; and the lack of a push-button for entry into the village office.
“There are a few things we will take care of right away, and some of the others will need to go into our (municipal) budgeting process and get a timeline,” said Gray.
Radium has created a dedicated accessibility page on its website where information on the plan will be posted and added an ‘accessibility’ option to its online reporting tool (which is also on the village’s website).
Also at the Sept. 25 meeting, Radium council gave second reading to a long-term rental housing revitalization tax exemption bylaw that, if adopted, will give anyone creating new long-term rental housing in the village a 10-year tax break on those new units.
Improvements to a property usually increase its assessed value, and so your municipal taxes go up, explained Gray. “The idea here is if you are creating something that’s of value to the community, and in this case that’s long-term rental housing, we’re willing to provide a tax exemption.”
That exemption can be for up to a decade, he added.
“It’s an extra nudge to build long rentals that our community really needs. We’re hoping that, combined with incentives or programs from the federal government and provincial government, it will result in more long-term rentals in Radium,” said Gray.
He noted the municipal revitalization tax exemptions are usually offered in commercial areas “but we are applying it to a residential area, because we think it fits.”