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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Lytton, B.C., residents appeal to province to help guide local government through rebuild


Frustrated with a perceived lack of communication from their local government, some residents and business owners in Lytton, B.C., have asked the provincial government to take an active role in rebuilding the village after it was levelled by a fire more than a month ago.

On Friday, the disappointed residents sent a letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Josie Osborne, asking the provincial government to support the village’s elected officials.

“We are concerned that our mayor and council do not have the skills, experience and emotional well-being to make decisions and plans around navigating the rebuilding of the Village of Lytton,” the letter says. 

Lifelong Lytton resident Denise O’Connor says she wrote the letter, along with input from friends.

“It’s not that they’re not working hard,” O’Connor said of the mayor and council. “I know they’re doing stuff, but I think it’s too much for them.”

With most properties and services in Lytton destroyed by the fire, townspeople have scattered. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Within 24 hours, she says, 59 residents and 12 businesses or organizations signed on to support the letter.  

“That was huge for us,” O’Connor said, pointing out that the village only has about 250 residents. 

‘Council is a little out of their depth’

The letter explains that the past month has been an anxious time due to a lack of communication and engagement from Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman and council. 

Some of the issues raised include no formal contact made with most residents, no contact with four of the five local First Nations, and the inexperience of some councillors and the village’s chief administrative officer.

Residents have outstanding questions about what has been happening in Lytton since the fire, the letter says — such as the plan for rebuilding, access to property, temporary housing and services, and community consultation.

WATCH | Lytton residents return to survey fire damage:

A bus tour for evacuees who fled Lytton, B.C., during a June 30 wildfire revealed the extensive damage the fire caused to the village and the surrounding area. 1:42

“I know that everyone’s doing their best, but I think council is a little out of their depth in terms of dealing with such a large-scale disaster,” said Jennifer Thoss, a homeowner who endorsed the letter.

With most properties and services destroyed by the fire, townspeople have scattered. Some are staying with friends or family, others in hotels or short-term rentals. 

O’Connor says she and her husband are staying at an Airbnb in Merritt, B.C., while they sort out insurance issues. They eagerly check the town’s website every night for new information. 

“Merrit’s a wonderful little community, but I don’t want to live here,” O’Connor said. “I want to live near Lytton, I want to live near where our house is going to be rebuilt.”

Daily information provided: mayor 

Mayor Polderman says information is being shared daily and the village office is open.

“I would strongly suggest to call the village office that’s now located in Kamloops,” Polderman said. “It will be coming back to the Lytton area soon as we can possibly get the office set up.” 

The mayor says a goal has been set to rebuild the village over the next two years.

In the meantime, residents who lost their homes are asked to register with the emergency operations centre to receive guidance on removing their possessions, the Fraser Basin trust will be conducting community consultations, and officials are actively working on finding a spot to create temporary housing.

 



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