City of Nanaimo may have bungled second Alternative Approval Process

CHEK

The City of Nanaimo may have made a serious mistake on its second Alternative Approval Process (AAP) as it tries to determine how it’s going to finance a new operations centre.

In a news release, the city says staff identified the error late last week.

It says the legislation requires elector response forms to be made available on the day of the first notice. In this instance, forms were made available on the first day of the AAP eight days later.

The city is asking taxpayers to borrow nearly $50 million for the first phase of an estimated $160 million operations centre.

Nanaimo taxpayer and lawyer Sandy Bartlett dropped off a package outlining that error and a few more problems with its run of this AAP at city hall Tuesday morning. It preceded the city’s news release about the error.

Bartlett’s package outlined how the city had not followed the community charter’s required guidelines to have opposition forms ready at city hall the day it started advertising the AAP.

“In this letter, I’m asking for some action from the city to ensure our public funds aren’t being wasted in this way. If you’re going to hold an AAP process, hold it legally and understand the process before you open it,” said Bartlett, who said someone at city hall should be held accountable.

The AAP, or Alternative Approval Process, is like negative billing. The borrowing is approved unless 10 per cent of taxpayers fill out forms saying they’re opposed.

The operations centre would replace the city’s aging public works yard, which was built when the city’s population was a fraction of what it is now.

Bartlett noticed an advertising error with the first AAP held in the fall. The city then started this second one in January, which Bartlett says will also fail.

He says the city needs to chart a new path.

“What they ought to be doing, in my view, and I’ve said this from the get-go, and I’ve advocated for this from the time I started speaking to the city about this problem, is that they need to do a referendum,” said Bartlett.

City hall told CHEK News Tuesday that the mayor, councillors, and staff would not respond to any media requests regarding the AAP. They said they will hold off on any more public comments until they get a legal opinion and council has met to discuss it.

In 2008, Nanaimo resident Fred Pattje led a campaign against an AAP that would’ve seen the Cable Bay lands incorporated into the city.

“It has the distinction of the only time in Nanaimo’s history that an AAP has been won,” said Pattje.

It stopped the city’s takeover of the land, and then Pattje went on to become a city councillor. He says he knows there’s a real need for a new public works facility, but this bungled process has been unfortunate.

“Three strikes and you’re out. That’s my way of thinking. It’s unheard of pretty much for a municipality to go through the same hoop twice, maybe three times, to get what they want, so it doesn’t bode well,” said Pattje.

The city expects to have its legal opinion and call a special council meeting early next week to discuss this AAP hurdle.

This past month, city staff have been touring residents through the public works yard to explain why the project is needed and to answer questions.

The city’s webpage about the Alternative Approval Process for the Operations Centre can be found here.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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