Referendum suggested for Benchland
By Nowell Berg
City of Kimberley council Nov. 27 tossed around the idea of holding a referendum regarding the future of the Marysville Benchland.
Coun. Bev Middlebrook raised the question during Monday night’s regular meeting of council, noting residents’ “passion” for the Benchland.
“I’ve been asked by many people about a referendum,” she said before asking about the criteria for holding a referendum.
Mayor Don McCormick deferred the answer to Corporate Officer Maryse Leroux, who said, “council would decide on the question and if it would go to a referendum.” She indicated that generally those decisions would be made closer to the municipal election in the fall of 2018.
The cost of holding a referendum would depend upon when it was held.
If a referendum was held in conjunction with the municipal election, then the cost would be small, just the expense of printing ballots; Leroux said it could be as little as $1,000.
On the other hand, if a referendum were to be held separately, then Leroux said, “it would cost about the same as holding the municipal election.”
City chief administrative officer Scott Sommerville said a ballpark number would be “about $15,000 for a stand-alone referendum.” He could not recall the last time the city held a stand-alone referendum.
Middlebrook said the Benchland zoning is part of the OCP (Official Community Plan) and holding a referendum with the municipal election would be too late. She wants the referendum to be held before the OCP is voted on in early 2018.
Coun. Sandra Roberts wanted it noted in the record that 50% of letters received by the city are in favour of the proposed light industrial zoning for the Benchland. She said, “We must recognize people who support” that change and not focus exclusively on those opposed.
Sommerville suggested the referendum timeline options be referred to staff for a report. Further, he said, “The OCP should come first.”
He then suggested a referendum could be held during the municipal election that looks at the details of any new zoning.
“The OCP process allows for many voices to be heard on both sides of the issue,” said Mayor McCormick.