Nanaimo Operations Centre approval done improperly: city

A woman wearing glasses and a red toque holding a dog in front of a record store.
Local business owner Valentina Cardinalli says that she wants the proposed Nanaimo Operations Centre to go to a referendum after the city found the attempt at an administrative error with Alternative Approval Process to approve it was done improperly. Photo: Mick Sweetman / CHLY 101.7FM.
Mick Sweetman - CHLY - NanaimoBC | 30-11-2023
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Error in notice for Alternative Approval Process means it failed to comply with provincial law and would need to be run again

A controversial Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to take out a $48.5 million loan for the first phase of a new public works yard was conducted improperly and needs to be run again, according to a press release from the City of Nanaimo.

An “administrative error” resulted when the notices for the AAP were combined and the timing of the notices “did not meet the legislative requirements,” according to a city staff report.

A total of 3,058 forms to the original AAP were returned to city hall by the deadline, short of the 10 per cent of eligible voters required in order to reject the proposal. Of those, 3,035 forms were determined to be valid after duplicate forms and forms from people who lived outside the city were removed.

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog says that the city needs to upgrade the public works yard in order for the city to be able to respond in the event of a major earthquake.

“Look, when the big one happens, and we can't get our equipment out to deal with you in an emergency situation, you may regret turning down the improvements at the public works yard,” he said.

Krog says that not upgrading the public works yard isn’t an option that he thinks should be entertained pointing to possible problems with Worksafe BC.

“Every parent in this community wants their school seismically safe,” he said. “We're talking about ensuring that our employees are working in seismically safe conditions. I don't think that's unreasonable to suggest in the 21st century.”

The report says that the cost for the typical homeowner in Nanaimo would be $77 per year over 20 years.

The report outlined three possibilities for city council, one being that the AAP is run a second time in January with notice posted on Jan. 10 and a 34-day voting period running from Jan. 18 to Feb. 20. A minimum of 7,889 valid forms in opposition to the loan would be required to defeat the proposal.

If the new AAP fails, city council could still choose to hold a referendum on the question.

The second option is that council abandon the current plan for the Nanaimo Operations Centre which the report notes would require staff to come up with alternative options to upgrade the current public works yard that was built in the 1960s. The report notes that this option could lead to a delay that may result in a higher cost for the project.

Local business owner Valentina Carinalli says that she understands the public works yard needs to be upgraded but would like to see the city take another look at the plan.

“I would like to see the city revisit the public works, and see what's really, really needed right now,” she said. “Maybe a more moderate thing, and I would also like to see a referendum about this.”

A referendum on the proposal is an option, which the staff report states would cost about $297,000 as well as considerable staff time.

Krog says that he would rather not spend that money.

“I can't say that I would support spending over $300,000 to get the answer to a question, which I think for most people — if they understood what was needed and what was happening — would be voting yes anyway.”

Cardinalli says a referendum would allow for more people to learn about the plan and spark a wider discussion about it in the community.

“Right now, really, it's about the process,” she said. “The referendum is about all the discussion of those details. And I might be wrong about those details. I don't know, I just would like to have the discussion.”

Council will discuss what options they want to proceed with at the next city council meeting on Monday.

Listen to CHLY’s story below: