Since it was announced that the City was looking into another boundary extension proposal in June, Giesbrecht and fellow Fort St. John resident Lisa Boda have taken it upon themselves to contact the property owners, and now have 74 signed position papers indicating whether they are in favour or opposed to the proposal. Of those 74, Giesbrecht says 92 per cent are in opposition.
“Clearly they’re going to have a lot of work to change their proposal if they want those no’s to yes’ because so many businesses and families are opposed to it,” he maintains. “It seems to me very clear that they don’t want to get the views of very many landowners because they know that they have to submit those to the [Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development], and the Ministry takes them very seriously,” he argues.
The papers were received by Director of Legislative and Administrative Services Janet Prestley this afternoon, and will be attached to the administration report being prepared for the October 28 City Council meeting. Giesbrecht wanted to present the papers as a delegation at the next meeting, a request that was denied by city staff.
Prestley says receiving feedback from a delegation is not part of the process that was approved by the Ministry, and an option that wasn’t presented to other affected property owners. However, Giesbrecht argues it’s yet another move to do the bare minimum in consultation.
“I’m worried that they’re trying to manage the input and the consultation process so much to keep out those people that are opposed. “The process is passive, and so we can’t just say to landowners, ‘Contact the City to make your view heard,’” he argues. “They’re busy! You need to actively talk to them, bring them the form, and say, ‘Can you give us your feedback? What do you think?’ and they’ll do it.”
The City has held two public meetings on the matter, and sent out its own “formal” response form to landowners, which asked for comments, in addition to their position. Mayor Lori Ackerman revealed Wednesday that only 23 property owners representing 56 pieces of land have responded, with a deadline of October 15th in order to be included in the report, before City Council decides whether to submit an application to the Ministry.