District uses new method to approve land swap

A proposed land swap with BC Hydro is utilising the Alternative Approval Process, rather than going to a referendum.

The District of Fort St. James is trying something new in order to facilitate the selling of park land to BC Hydro: an Alternative Approval Process (AAP). At least, the process is new to Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Crook, who says the District hasn’t used an AAP in the 13 years he’s been here.

The District wants to enter into an agreement with BC Hydro to sell 0.188ha of unused park land to the east of the substation on Murray Road to Hydro, in exchange for a 0.188ha piece of land to the north of the substation on Douglas Avenue, which is currently owned by Hydro and which will be designated as park land. In order to sell park land, the District must—according to the Community Charter—consult with community members. This can be done by Assent Voting (more commonly known as a referendum), or by the Alternative Approval Process. Since the AAP is less costly to the taxpayer and can be executed in a shorter period of time (as little as 32 days, as opposed to up to 80 days for the referendum process), Mayor and Council have decided to enact the AAP as their primary consultation method in this matter.

An AAP calls for 10% of electors in the District to make their opposition to the project known, in writing, to the District. Elector Response Forms are available at the District Office, and state that “By completing this form I am of the opinion that Mayor and Council should NOT proceed with the proposed bylaw and land exchange unless it is approved through an Assent Vote process requiring 50% or greater public support.”

The exchange of land  has been requested by BC Hydro, in order to facilitate upgrades to its substation which are required to tie in power which will be generated by the Fort Green Energy Project. The “Land Disposal and Exchange Bylaw No. 951, 2015” was given first, second, and third reading at the Council meeting of July 12, 2015.  It is scheduled to be adopted at the regular Council meeting of Sept. 9, 2015 unless an Assent Vote is held.

In the case of Fort St. James it would take 121 people opposing the proposed sale to reach the 10% threshold and cancel the AAP, at which time Assent Voting might be enacted by Mayor and Council. All Resident Electors and Non-Resident Property Electors in Fort St. James are eligible to vote. Elector response forms, copies of the proposed bylaw, and an information leaflet may be obtained at the District Office during regular office hours (8:30 am – 4:30 pm), by e-mailing edo@fortstjames.ca, or by calling (250) 996-8233.

Completed elector response forms can be dropped off (in person or by a third party) at the District Office, or sent by mail to District of Fort St. James, P.O. Box 640, Fort St. James, BC V0J 1P0. All forms must be received by Aug. 31, 2015.

Barbara Roden