As part of the new Official Community Plan (OCP), the City of Kimberley has proposed re-zoning the Marysville Bench Lands for light industrial use, which has lead to many discussions on the topic throughout Kimberley.
Councillor Bev Middlebrook, who has been opposed to the industrial zoning all along, suggested the issue should go to referendum. Council voted Monday to direct staff not to proceed with establishing the assent vote.
“This bench land issue has divided this community and it’s a very touchy situation,” said Middlebrook. “I think that a referendum, or an assent vote, would be a way that the people would vote on their own issue and however it landed then it’s up to the people. We’re putting it back into their hands.”
She adds that an assent vote costs $2000 (as part of next year’s election) and that Council shouldn’t be the ones to decide on the issue.
“I think it’s important to the people, and it’s them who should be making that decision. We have over 500 signatures on the petition and almost 30 letters written. I think the people are speaking and [they] should make that decision,” said Middlebrook.
Councillor Sandra Roberts said a motion of such nature is “too soon” after just having completed the first reading.
“We’re going to do the second reading and have a public forum. At that public forum every single person in this community has the right to come out and tell us what they think about the whole OCP. Not just one item, but the whole community plan. This is not just an issue about the bench lands, it’s about the whole plan. If we determine at that point in time, that there is a need for it [assent and other voting], we can go ahead at that time,” said Roberts.
Mayor Don McCormick says that as elected officials, it is their job to make these types of decisions and that governance by referendum “does not work.”
He adds that the OCP process is consistent throughout the entire province; it is a process to deal with these types of issues and allows for public input.
“The OCP in any event is not prescriptive; it’s not a rule book, it’s not definitive,” said McCormick. “We have at least four layers of permitting underneath that get definitive. At every single level, we as a Council have an opportunity to either approve or disapprove of any use, on any piece of land, regardless of the zoning. Zoning within the OCP changes all of the time. Most OCP’s have one or two modifications a year based on new issues or opportunities that come up.”
Councillor Albert Hoglund referenced a previous issue within Council, that of flat taxes. He said it was similar in that many people either agreed or disagreed, and after a public hearing, it was clear to Council that the majority wanted a flat tax rate so they voted in favour.
“Everyone at the meeting had their say,” said Hoglund. “Taking an item like this to referendum, you’re not doing the council or community justice.”
A public hearing for the OCP is set for February 19, 2018 at Centennial Hall.