Provincial Government responds to petition seeking referendum

By Contributor
August 20th, 2020

The City of Rossland has received a copy of the response to the request for a referendum on the proposed affordable housing/city hall project in development for the old EMCON lot on 3rd Ave.

The request, along with the petition, was sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing by a Facebook group called the Rossland Taxpayers Federation.

According to the letter from the Ministry, “Under the Community Charter, municipalities are a democratically elected and autonomous order of government within their jurisdiction. There is no legislated requirement for a referendum in the circumstances described, and there is no legal basis for the Province of British Columbia to demand a referendum. Under s.82 of the Community Charter, you or your organization can present a petition to council. Also, under s.83 of the Community Charter, council may seek community opinion on an issue, by voting or any other process the council considers appropriate; however, these are consultative processes, and neither is binding on council.”

The Ministry goes on to say, “There are only limited actions of council that require a binding approval of the electors (through assent or alternative approval process), and those limited circumstances are set out under the legislation. For example, under certain circumstances, long-term liabilities under agreement and loan authorization bylaws require the approval of the electorate.”

In conclusion, The Ministry states, “There is no statutory requirement for elector approval for either utilizing reserve funds or disposing of most municipal property. As such, there is no statutory basis for the Province to require the City to hold a binding referendum related to this development.”

According to Mayor Kathy Moore, “This is the response we expected. The Provincial government is not inclined to intervene in local matters as Local Governments are granted a fair amount of autonomy for the decisions they make. In addition to this rationale, Council feels that the City has sufficiently consulted and informed the public on this proposed project. We have provided a lot of information on the benefits to the community, and the steps we have taken to ensure it will be efficiently and competently completed.”

Jan Morton, from the Lower Columbia Affordable Housing Society, the organization that is partnering with the City on the project which is fully responsible for the housing portion of it, stated, “We are very grateful for the partnerships with the City of Rossland, BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust on this project. It is a unique opportunity for all organizations to combine forces and deliver on a fantastic project for the community. We are stronger together. There is a housing need in Rossland, and these 37 new, permanent rental units will be a huge benefit to the local area. This project would not be possible without all of our partners.”

The project is currently undergoing final reviews from its multiple partners and is anticipated to go to tender in January 2021, with a scheduled completion date of October 2022.

For continuous updates on this project, please visit www.rossland.ca or contact:

City of Rossland:  Mayor Kathy Moore — mayor@rossland.ca, or  250-521-1500

Lower Columbia Affordable Hosing Society (LCAHS):  Jan Morton, President — rosslandjan@gmail.com

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