It might be a ‘feel good’ motion, it might be too antagonistic, it might be just right.
All of these opinions surfaced in discussions of a motion passed by a majority of Salmon Arm council Monday regarding the highway project at the west end of town. The motion asked the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to release information, for easy public access, pertaining to the Salmon Arm West highway project, and hold public meetings as soon as land negotiations are complete.
Council discussions were sparked by a motion from the city’s agricultural advisory committee. Because the project is expected to result in a loss of agricultural land, as well as possibly affect two prominent agri-tourism businesses, DeMille’s and Pedro’s, it is important to the committee.
The motion from the committee, brought forward by council rep Ken Jamieson, requested the ministry to “immediately” release information, for easy public access, and to hold public meetings no later than April 15.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said the committee’s motion seems to make the assumption that citizens are not being told something. She suggested that when property and negotiating land purchases are involved, “it’s in all of our interests in following due process.”
Jamieson said information he received stated a public meeting would be held in February, which it wasn’t.
Coun. Chad Eliason said he would vote against the committee’s motion.
“If the city is trying to purchase land, buy land, acquire land, if that land is identified, and increases in value or makes it more difficult to acquire… it makes land acquisition turn into land expropriation…”
Jamieson assured the intention was not to try to get the provincial government to release information it normally wouldn’t.
“That’s one of the complaints from the public, there’s not enough information.”
Asked for staff input, administrator Carl Bannister intimated that news could be a while.
“The motion says information will be released after negotiations are complete. I think that could be some time from now.”
Coun. Alan Harrison put forward the new motion that was eventually passed. In it the request for “immediate” information was deleted, and the deadline of April 15 was replaced with “as soon as land negotiations are complete.”
Eliason said, rather than a motion, council and staff should be asking for a meeting with the ministry. He noted the city has been asking for a new bridge for 10 years.
“We’re at the table now… I don’t want to lose that either. I think this might not be our best negotiating tactic. I think this might compromise it… I think we would be better off as a group, as the representatives of the community, to request a meting with MOTI.”
Harrison said there is no criticism of the ministry or the process in the motion, only a request for information. He added he doesn’t see it jeopardizing the project in any way.
Mayor Nancy Cooper said she would support the request for information but would also favour a meeting. She added she is certain the ministry will not renege on its commitments.
Eliason was alone in voting against.