City seeks to borrow for Burke projects
Coquitlam council wants to borrow $17.9 million to pay for new infrastructure works — most of them for Burke Mountain.
And residents can vote in March and April if they don’t want the city to take on the debt.
On Monday, city council gave three readings to a loan bylaw that would authorize city staff to hold an alternative approval process, a voting method allowed under the province’s Community Charter that permits municipalities to canvas the public on a specific matter.
The process — often criticized as favouring municipal governments as a threshold of 10% of the electorate would be needed to challenge a proposal — is most commonly used for long-term borrowing.
Thus, in Coquitlam, which has 82,839 electors, more than 8,200 residents would have to sign the counter-petition to force the city to either drop the project or hold a referendum; if there are too few signatures, the borrowing can go ahead.
The last time Coquitlam used the alternative approval process (AAP) was in 2010 for plans to borrow up to $4 million over 15 years to widen Coast Meridian Road — and just 35 people filled out the elector response form by the deadline.
Yesterday, Mayor Richard Stewart told The Tri-City News he believes the AAP is democratic.
“The only tools that we have is to go to an expensive referendum or to use a process like this where people who have concerns identify themselves,” he said. “If there were significant concern about this, I would push for another process even though this is not taxpayer-funded debt at all. It is all funded by development.”
Under its proposal, the city wants to borrow $17.9 million to go towards $21.9 million worth of infrastructure projects, most of them for Burke Mountain, where the city is building a community for 25,000 new residents over the next 20 years.
City staff say the $4 million not borrowed will come from city sources such as development cost charges (DCCs) already collected while the $17.9 million would be repaid with future DCCs.
The city is expected to have its elector response forms available on March 8, with voting closing at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 15. If less than 10% of Coquitlam electors register opposition, the borrowing bylaw will return to city council for fourth and final reading on April 29.
The projects to be paid for out of the $21.9 million are:
• Northeast Coquitlam arterial road expansion, phase 1: $9.2 million. The project includes widening of Coast Meridian Road between David Avenue and Harper Road; widening of Victoria Drive from Coast Meridian to Cedar Drive; and completing David Avenue from Coast Meridian to Burke Village Promenade.
• Crouch reservoir: $4.1 million. The reservoir, located in the upper half of the Partington Creek neighbourhood, will provide drinking and fire suppression water.
• Harper reservoir cell 1: $4.5 million ($1.8 million to be borrowed). Also to be used for drinking and fire suppression water, from a reservoir near Coast Meridian and Harper roads.
• City Centre sanitary pump station, phase 1: $4.1 million ($2.7 million to be borrowed). A new pump station, forcemain and gravity sewer to handle City Centre’s high-density growth.