Rossland Taxpayers Federation (RTF) member Fletcher Quince has sent a petition to B.C. Minister of Housing Selina Robinson, asking for a referendum to be held on a proposed city hall and affordable housing development at 1920 3rd Ave. in Rossland.
The petition has garnered more than 350 signatures, which is around 10 per cent of the city’s population in the most recent census by Statistics Canada.
RTF members claim the City of Rossland withheld important environmental, geotechnical and traffic reports until the day after a public hearing was held on the project in February 2020.
“People didn’t have any information when they went to this public input meeting regarding the development permit that was about to be issued for the project. Most of the questions were about the information the city had, but hadn’t shared with people in the community yet,” said Quince.
“At the meeting, people were asking for that information, requesting more time and that this didn’t go forward. The mayor basically said ‘We’re not going to waste anymore time, we want this done this summer.’”
A letter attached to the petition also said the majority of residents were against adding the city hall component into the development, which it states was initially only supposed to an affordable housing project.
“While the vast majority of the community is supportive of the affordable housing project, during initial public engagements, 63 per cent of participants expressed concerns surrounding the inclusion of city hall and the cost of its construction in a small town of 3,700,” said Quince, who wrote the letter on behalf of the RTF.
That statistic came from an open house report on the project that was conducted by City Spaces late in 2019.
Petitioner Brian Pistak said there is also likely to be soil contamination at the site, particularly since local contractors have had construction material and a salt shed around the vicinity of the site over the decades.
“There are many (contaminants) that could potentially be found at this site when the city starts digging,” said Pistak.
“And the taxpayers will be left on the hook for it.”
Despite concerns laid out by RTF members, mayor Kathy Moore said much of the information given is incorrect.
Moore said a 2017 environment assessment, a detailed site investigation study, and a human health and ecological risk assessment study in 2018 were all put on the city’s website prior to the 2019 public open houses.
The geotechnical report later conducted in July of 2019 was available to the public before an open house that October, according to Moore.
City planner Stacey Lightbourne said she believes the geotechnical report was also put online prior to Oct. 2019.
Moore also said some residents are under the impression that the development is being built on a lot next to the arena, which isn’t the case.
“That site was a filled-in gully and it has all sorts of stuff in it. It’s not suited for the development.”
Moore said the land at 1920 3rd Ave. is completely different than the land next the arena and that various reports conducted show it’s fine for the project.
The roof of the old city hall partially collapsed in March of 2018, forcing city staff to temporarily work out of a building at 2198 Leroi Avenue.
The RTF was originally going to send the petition to Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy, however decided not to send it to her directly after she experienced a personal loss in her family.
Moore said that city hall has received the petition and that city council will decide at the July 13 meeting whether to hold a referendum on the development, or not.
Overall, Moore said the development is a win-win for the community.
“This is a really good project. This isn’t just a project for next year, it’s a project for the next 75 years,” said Moore.
“In the long term, this project will provide rental properties for people of a certain income level and we’re going to have a city hall that functions for decades into the future. That’s something we don’t have right now.”