In an attempt to include more public consultation that the last boundary extension attempt that was quashed in early 2012, Mayor Lori Ackerman explained to the crowd that the emphasis this time is on hearing from those affected.
“Tonight is the beginning of just gathering questions and comments,” she said. “No decisions have been made yet.”
Members of city council and staff were spread around the room, speaking one-on-one with those in attendance. After discussing the issue with a group, Councillor Trevor Bolin says at this point it seems people are simply looking for more information about the proposal.
“It’s not that people are necessarily for it or against it; it’s just give us the information they need to make an informed decision, which is what we’re really here for,” he says.
He was asked for details on the exact locations and roads affected, and what the City’s long-term plans are.
Council formally withdrew its most recent application to include more land in its boundaries in February 2012, needing better clarification on what’s needed for consent of property owners. Bolin says it was made clear that better consultation would be needed in the event of another proposal.
“The last time we attempted to do a boundary expansion, the residents in the fringe area and around Fort St. John came to us and told us that we were doing it wrong. They wanted more consultation, they wanted more information, they wanted it to be about the questions they had, not about what we felt it should be.”
Jim Morrison is one of the affected property owners who came out to voice his concerns about the proposal. He approached the City looking for his property in the Prospect Park area to be included in the City’s boundaries decades ago, but was turned down, partly because it would cost too much to service it. His biggest question this time around is, ‘why now?’
“The road belongs to the province, we’re in the Charlie Lake Fire Department area, the City has nothing to offer me,” he argues. “I can be convinced to bring our property into the City, but I need something in exchange. What are you going to provide me with?”
He adds he would have preferred a meeting where questions and answers were given to the entire room, to ensure they are properly addressed.
Answers to any questions and comments made at tonight’s gathering will be brought forward at a second public meeting in September, and any comments made on the PlaceSpeak website will be included in their entirety should an application be made.