surprise the city messed up again

An already confusing bylaw has become only more so. At this week’s meeting, city staffers told council that the wording of the bylaw, which…

An already confusing bylaw has become only more so.

At this week’s meeting, city staffers told council that the wording of the bylaw, which took Whitehorse to a referendum vote in June, is flawed.

The bylaw calls for a planning study and greenspace map to be drafted as part of any new subdivision development within city limits.

At least, that’s what we were led to believe.

Now, after going through drafts and redrafts, and a citywide referendum, the city tasked an independent lawyer to review the bylaw’s wording and found it doesn’t apply to all subdivisions.

It only applies to a few developments, which meet strict criteria — those that require an area development scheme, but don’t have one drafted yet.

That’s only a handful of new developments.

And the bylaw certainly doesn’t apply every time a property owner wants to subdivide one lot.

(The city stressed the opposite — that the bylaw would apply to every subdivision — in its pre-referendum “education” campaign.)

The mix-up has wasted time.

More than 2,000 people took the time to go out and vote in the referendum, plus there were countless admin hours wasted on drafting and redrafting the bylaw’s wording, and city council wasted time on reviewing and voting on the flawed bylaw.

The mix-up has wasted money.

The city spent $13,000 on simply holding the referendum.

And the mix-up again calls into question the trustworthiness of a city administration whose credibility is already dubious.

The mayor and council made no secret of their opposition to the bylaw in the first place.

Who knows how the referendum vote would have turned out if people knew the true implications of the bylaw?

“We put erroneous information out during the campaign,” said city administrative director Robert Fendrick at Monday’s meeting.

So the city, the mayor and city council members were unwittingly lying to the public about the actual impact passing, or defeating, this bylaw would have.

“It would have been nice to have this legal opinion prior to the referendum,” mayor Ernie Bourassa said.

Ya think?

The gaffe makes the mayor and council look uninformed, and the city look bad.

And when the mayor and council were informed of the mistake on Monday, Bourassa seemed surprised.

“Are you now telling me that, some of the comments that we made during the referendum process, in terms of what was going to be required for any single-lot subdivision, that sort of thing, does not apply, now that we’ve got this legal opinion?” asked Bourassa.

What’s worse, this isn’t the first time this type of disconnect has happened.

Just last month, Bourassa lambasted staffers from the city’s planning department for plowing ahead and beginning an environmental assessment of the land around McLean Lake without notifying council.

And, the planning department hadn’t even confirmed what issues council wished the review to focus on.

So, the mayor was unwittingly lying to the residents of McLean Lake.

“In the last two months, we’ve met with members of McLean Lake’s Residents Association, and have consistently told them that there is no review underway,” Bourassa said at the June 19th meeting.

“To find out this past week that our planning department has actually gone ahead and started the review process without coming to council and confirming what council wanted to have reviewed is very upsetting.

“I want our staff to clearly understand that that is not acceptable,” Bourassa said.

Again, the gaffe made the mayor and council appear uninformed, and the city look bad. The left hand hasn’t a clue what the right is doing.

In the past the city has complained that the territory has not been forthcoming and transparent in its relationship with the city.

But, even more important, is the internal relationship between the city and council.

Both are supposedly working toward the greater good of Whitehorse citizens.

So, they should be working together. (LC)