Update – Jan. 15, 11 a.m.
Council may now proceed with with a property lease agreement related to the potential construction of a Ross Street underpass.
On Wednesday morning, City of Salmon Arm corporate officer Corey Paiement reported that 1,275 elector responses requesting council not to proceed with the 10-year lease were received during the alternative approval process that ended Jan. 10. This falls 86 responses short of the 1,361 that were legally required.
“The elector responses received do not meet the minimum sufficiency requirements prescribed in Section 86 of the Community Charter to preclude council from executing the lease agreement… Therefore, council is in a legal position to execute the lease agreement,” states Paiement.
At Monday’s council meeting, city administrator Cari Bannister reported that 1,325 responses had been received, but that several would be disqualified for not meeting stated criteria.
The city appears to have the majority of the public’s support in proceeding with a property lease related to the potential construction of a Ross Street underpass.
As part of an alternative approval process, Salmon Arm residents had until Jan. 10 to submit 1,361 signatures on a counter petition to stop the city from entering the 10-year agreement, at $33,000 per year, to lease lots at 621 and 641 Ross St. NE.
On Monday, city administrator Carl Bannister said the unofficial number of petitions received was 1,325, adding several will be disqualified for not meeting stated criteria.
City corporate officer Corey Paiement will be certifying the results in the coming days.
As part of the lease agreement with WH Laird Holdings Ltd. owned by Bill Laird, the city will acquire a road dedication through a lot between Shuswap Park Mall and the CP Rail station.
The city intends to use the leased lots for parking “or some other public use, including as a staging area for the construction of the Ross Street underpass,” estimated by city staff to cost between $7 and 9 million.
At Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Denise Reimer responded to a related letter from Bob Edwards, who suggests council was “attempting to sneak the acquisition of the land for the proposed underpass through the ‘back door’ instead of including the land purchase in a referendum on the underpass.”
Reimer refuted Edwards’ claim, stating she views the lease as a prudent use of taxpayer dollars in order to acquire the necessary property.
“This has been in the official community plan as well as our strategic plan and it’s come in really high on the list, so I see this as an opportunity for us,” Reimer told the Observer.
As for the underpass, Reimer said she would never support the project going ahead without it first going to referendum.
“I believe that’s of utmost importance because it’s a $9 million project…,” said Reimer. “Whether we do that project in five years, 10 years, 25 years, it’s important to have the land.”