Princeton town council reviewed a petition this week that calls for the striking down of the ATV ban on the Trans Canada Trail – 18 months after 92 pages of signatures were dropped off at town hall.
According to the town’s CAO Cheryl Martens, the petition was not properly presented to the municipality’s corporate officer, and therefore was never received by council.
“Council relies on administration to bring information forward for their consideration when required. Upon review of council meetings held in 2016, and for reasons unknown, administration did not bring this information forward for council consideration. It would be feasible to reason that the petition was deemed not to be properly served,” she stated in a report to council, dated April 3, 2018.
At least one councillor feels the details further contained in Marten’s report validate the town’s decision to pass the Off Road Vehicle Bylaw.
“Yes, I think it does,” said Doug Pateman, in an interview with The Spotlight.
“It strengthens what we have suspected for so long,” said Pateman. “I think we did the right thing.”
Pateman was referencing the newly released analysis of the signatures on the petition, a document widely promoted as an indication of overwhelming support to allow ATVs and other off road vehicles to use the 3 km of KVR trail within municipal boundaries.
According to the report, out of 1,888 signatures, only 468 were from Princeton residents and another 30 represented Princeton businesses.
Residents of Area H within the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen accounted for 561 signatures, and 317 signatures were neither from Princeton nor Area H. Five signatures were from children and 507 were considered void for not providing a residential address, or signature, or for being duplicates.
“Council is responsible for the residents only within its boundaries. Only 468 of the signatures were from town residents. Out of 1,888 signatures, this amounts to 24 per cent of the petition. Upon further review, the population of the Town of Princeton in 2016 was 2828. Of this 2828, only 16.54 per cent of town residents signed the petition, 83.46 per cent did not,” the report states.
Pateman said he was surprised this information was not brought before council at the time the bylaw was passed.
“I wasn’t aware of the rules and regulations surrounding petitions,” he said. “This should have been dealt with long ago…As you’ve witnessed over the past couple of months, our new CAO is all about trying to tidy things up.”
Martens assumed the top job at municipal hall in February 2018.
Ed Vermette, president of the Princeton ATV club and the driver behind the petition in 2016, said he was also surprised council did not review the signatures when they were presented.
“I heard through the grapevine that it was being done…I just assumed it had been done,” he said.
“It doesn’t really matter to me. I still presented a petition in 15 days with 1,900 signatures, whatever numbers they came up with.”
Vermette said he does not believe the report, filed this late, will affect any change.
“Nothing is going to happen with it. I am just going to carry on with what I’m doing with the club, and the club will take this to the election…There is an economic benefit to what we are trying to do.”
Leona Guerster, who announced in January she is running for the mayor’s chair in the 2018 election, quizzed council on the report at Monday night’s meeting.
“Why is this coming up now, later, when the bylaw was already passed in 2016?”
Guerster is president of the Vermilion Trails Society and a vocal proponent of multi-use trails.
Armitage responded that “there were questions of late” regarding the petition.
Martens interjected that she had seen the petition referenced on Facebook and looked back to 2016 records to learn more about it.
Guerster said she believed many of the signatures considered “void” may have been discounted because they were accompanied by a post office box and not a street address.
However Martens shook her head at this statement, and referred again to provincial legislation that governs petitions.