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Sechelt ops centre AAP closes Feb. 26

Sechelt ops centre AAP closes Feb. 26

Eligible residents of the District of Sechelt have until 4pm on Friday, Feb. 26, to file documents if they want to oppose municipal borrowing of up to $2.77 million. Sechelt wants the loan to help build an operations centre to replace temporary facilities used to support its parks and public works functions. It is seeking elector approval to take the loan through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP). This requires those opposed to committing to the loan, which is to be repaid over 20 years, to take
action.
To be eligible to participate in this AAP, individuals must be 18 years of age or older and have lived in the District of Sechelt for at least 30 days. In addition, residents need to have lived in BC for at least six months and not be barred from voting under the Local Government Act. Individuals do not need to be property owners to be eligible to file an AAP response.
People who own property in the District of Sechelt but reside elsewhere may file a response but require the consent of the majority of the owners of that property. In the case of property owned by non-residents, only one AAP response is permitted per property. Non-resident owners of multiple District properties can only file one AAP form.
The AAP response form is available on Sechelt.ca and at the District Office at 5797 Cowrie Street.
Completed forms must be received at the District office by 4pm on Feb. 26 to be considered. They can be delivered by email, fax, Canada Post or other delivery service or dropped off by hand. Individuals with questions about their eligibility, the submission process, or the project that the loan is being considered for should review the details available on the District website or contact its staff.
The process is considered approved by voters if less than 860 eligible electors file forms in opposition. That number represents 10 percent of the estimated number of eligible electors in the District at the time that conducting the AAP was authorized by the Province.
Sechelt’s Communications Manager Julie Rogers stated that staff plan to have a report on the response to the AAP to council at its March 17 meeting. The report may be made public on March 12, as council meeting agendas are posted on Sechelt.ca on the Friday before the meeting. The District has the option of amending the agenda between the date of publication and the meeting to add or remove agenda items or supporting documents.
If fewer than 860 forms are received, council can authorize taking the loan. If more than 860 verified submissions are received, the AAP fails. In that case, the loan cannot be taken unless council is able to attain elector approval through another means, such as a referendum. Sechelt did not respond to questions from the Local about the AAP submission counting and verification process by press time.
This AAP has come under criticism, with some community residents questioning whether the District has followed the proper process. Procedural anomalies being pointed to relate to the reduced opportunities for electors to get information and to access and return forms in person. The District’s Cowrie Street office is open to the public during reduced hours due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Sechelt has estimated that if the loan is taken, it will cost the owner of an “average” Sechelt residential property about $31 more in annual property taxes for the 20-year repayment term. That estimate is based on a residential property with a current assessed value of about $638,000. Any taxation change related to this AAP would not impact 2021 property taxes but could begin as early as 2022.
There may be an additional AAP process for Sechelt electors during 2021. The SCRD, which has jurisdiction over local government water supply, has indicated an interest in taking a loan to fund the installation of water meters in the municipality. That borrowing would also require elector approval. A 2018 AAP to borrow money for that purpose failed. Decisions on a potential second AAP on that issue are anticipated to be made by the SCRD board later this year.
Connie Jordison

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