District of Invermere (DOI) residents may have already voted in favour of spending $5 million to purchase the waterfront Lake Windermere Resort Lands in Athalmer, but they will get to weigh in again at least one more time before council will be allowed to close the deal on its top-priority project.
“It’s valuable property there. It’s the gateway to our community,” said Mayor Al Miller, adding that he’s keen to see the community “bring it into our fold.”
A question posed in the October 2018 municipal election, which received 66 per cent support, asked: “Would you support the District purchasing the ‘Lake Windermere Resort Lands’, located in Athalmer for an amount not to exceed $5,000,000?”
While residents voted in favour of the purchase, their ballots weren’t binding.
Chief administrative officer Chris Prosser said the DOI didn’t have time to prepare the paperwork required for a referendum so they went with a public-opinion poll instead to gauge community support.
Mayor Miller said the poll was “a 10th hour decision just to get a bit of an idea.”
But voter support has to come through a specific process in order to allow council to take on long-term debt, said finance director Karen Cote.
Typically that process is to hold a referendum, which would cost around $10,000, but there is another option that would be quicker, less costly and consume less staff time, Mr. Prosser said. That process includes holding open houses, mailing out a newsletter and giving the public 30 days to respond.
If fewer than 10 per cent of eligible voters send in a form to oppose the plan, council can proceed. But if 239 or more residents are against the land purchase, council will have to abandon the land deal or carry it forward for a referendum.
Councillor Gerry Taft said that even with the majority of residents endorsing the plan in the public-opinion poll, 239 opponents “is a low threshold” and the issue might still require a referendum.
It’s such a low threshold that it was already exceeded in the public opinion poll, where 352 people voted against buying the land.
Regardless, council opted to proceed with the alternative approval process in a gamble that could save the community time and money.
“It’s the quickest way to move through and consider the deal at hand,” Mayor Miller said.
Lower voting age proposed
Mr. Taft asked his council colleagues to consider whether they would support lowering the voting age to 16 and take the idea forward to the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Government and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. Council will discuss the proposition at their meeting on Tuesday, February 26th.
Council considered advising Generation Homes that their application to rezone 606 10th Avenue to allow for a development of up to 32 units was too vague to bring forward for a public hearing.
“It’s not a terrible concept,” Mr. Taft said, but “they should probably get their crap together.”
That ‘crap’ includes plans for storm-water management, road and intersection improvements and more.
Council opted not to set a date for the public hearing to allow time for Generation Homes to make more information available for residents prior to the hearing if they chose to do so.