The city’s report card compares progress in more than 30 areas of sustainability. (Photo: John Boivin)

Rossland meeting targets for sustainability, report says

Report card gives city high marks in most areas of sustainable development

Rossland’s latest report card is out — and the city is giving itself a passing grade.

The “State of Rossland” sustainability report was received by council this week, and in more than 30 areas of measurement, the city is on track to meet its goals.

Giving a mark of ‘On Track,’ ‘Holding Steady,’ or ‘Needs Attention,’ Rossland residents were canvassed for their opinions and other data were collected from third-party sources such as Statistics Canada for the report.

Of the 34 indicators, 22 showed the city on track to meet its goals; seven showed the city holding steady; and three indicated areas that need attention.

Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore says she is happy with the results.

“Obviously there’s room for improvement, but we have some pretty lofty goals and we are working our way towards them,” she says. “Rome was not built in a day.”

The State of Rossland project is designed to strengthen Rossland’s ongoing sustainabile planning process and help the community meet its sustainability-related objectives.

Starting in 2007, a plan was implemented to create a sustainability vision for Rossland looking ahead to 2030. The idea was to ensure the city creates and follows sustainable policies on issues like building development, climate change, and changing demographics. Even things like volunteerism and sense of community are analyzed.

Now more than a decade old, the process is reviewed every three years or so to see how well the community is meeting those goals.

“If you don’t have a map, you never know where you are going,” says Moore. “It’s a report card. You look at that, you focus on those areas that you want to see improvement in, and the ones that are on track you make sure you don’t go backwards, and the ones you are holding steady you try to pump them up to improving them a bit.”

Core housing density lacking

One of the three areas the report found in need of attention is housing density.

One of the sustainability goals is to have a vibrant downtown core, with the most dense housing in and around that area. Urban sprawl is the opposite of that, and the 15 per cent growth in housing units at the Red Mountain ski area, instead of downtown, drove the city’s numbers in that area down.

“I was a little surprised by this,” says Moore. “I feel like we’ve had so much building, I was a little surprised it came out that way.”

Housing affordability, especially in relation to property taxes, was another area the city has to pay more attention to, the report says.

“Since 2014 the total residential property tax burden (residential taxes, parcel tax and fees) on a representative Rossland dwelling has gone up from $3,956 to $4,300,” the report says. “Because of increased assessments, it appears that Rossland is moving away from it’s 2030 goal.”

Moore wasn’t as impressed by this metric.

“That one is a little flawed when you look at the communities we were compared to,” says Moore. “They aren’t communities that are similar to Rossland… Trail is much bigger, it has a huge industrial taxpayer with Teck. Fernie is the same way.”

The third negative mark on the report notes that student enrollment is down in local schools.

Report is hardly doom and gloom

In most areas, including the area of parks and protected spaces, the city gets a solid on-track score.

“From 2014 to 2018, there was a 20 per cent increase in city parkland,” the report says. “[A]necdotally, staff confirm that new parkland has been acquired. It appears that Rossland is moving towards End-State Goal #1.”

The goal is that “an extensive network of green spaces, natural habitat, environmentally sensitive areas, riparian zones, water catchment areas, and wildlife corridors is protected.”

In the area of diversity of housing stock, the city also gets a passing grade.

“Between 2015 and 2017 Rossland has had a slight increase in single-family dwellings (up 10 units), and a 34 per cent increase in single family homes with secondary suites (up 20 units), and multi-family homes have gone up to three per cent,” the report states.

While it’s helped guide the city for the last dozen years or so, Moore says the sustainability plan is up for another review next year.

“It’s time to go back and look at it because it’s over 10 years old,” she says. “Honestly, I think it’s a great document. There are probably going to be changes for sure, but by and large it’s a great foundational document.”

Any changes will go toward informing the Official Community Plan, another document that’s up for review in 2019.

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‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ says Mayor Kathy Moore of the Vision to Action Strategic Sustainability Plan. (Submitted photo)

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