Confusing greenspace bylaw passes

‘If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch.” This was mayor Ernie Bourassa’s take on Thursday’s greenspace referendum.

‘If you don’t vote, you can’t bitch.”

This was mayor Ernie Bourassa’s take on Thursday’s greenspace referendum.

Only 21 per cent of the eligible populace voted on what many felt was a confusing new bylaw.

“It’s a typical turn-out for this time of year,” said Bourassa.

“But what surprised me was how close the vote was.”

The new bylaw, that requires a planning study, a greenspace map and a plebiscite as part of any preliminary development process, passed by a mere 71 votes.

“This shows a significant split between developers and anti-developers,” said Bourassa Friday.

But Porter Creek Community Association president Carol Bookless, whose original petition forced the city to draft the new bylaw and hold a referendum, maintains she’s not against development.

She just wants to see greenspace protected.

“Our main concern is to lay out what’s important to protect,” said Bookless.

“Especially in big developments, like Porter Creek’s lower bench, Takhini and around McLean Lake — in those areas we want to see greenspace plans done by the city at the beginning of the process.”

Although the city warned that the bylaw would also apply to one person trying to subdivide a single lot, Bourassa is hoping to work with council and area residents to avoid unnecessary greenspace planning and plebiscites for smaller developments.

“I am going to take some of the (bylaw) proponents’ word that they are not against development and will work with the city to make sure things are done right, from the get-go,” he said.

“We’re not really concerned with single-lot subdivision at all,” agreed Bookless.

“It wasn’t really on our radar, so whatever is proposed to make sure that isn’t a problem will probably be fine with us.”

But, the bylaw cannot be amended for a year, said city director of operations Robert Fendrick.

“Even if we have to wait a year to amend it, I think we can come to a reasonable agreement with the proponents,” said Bourassa.

And if residents butt heads with council in the future, the city can always overrule the plebiscite anyway, he added.

“A plebiscite isn’t binding on council,” said Bourassa.

“And the council of the day would simply have to make the decision that is in the best interests of the community; they’re going to go ahead, and they’ll go to the area-development scheme process and just proceed.

“So you could really pit council against area residents in a very serious way.”

But Bourassa hopes to come up with a greenspace plan that satisfies everybody.

When Bookless originally drafted the bylaw, it required the plebiscite pass before anything could proceed.

But the city didn’t put that in the final draft, she said.

However, Bookless is still pleased with the new bylaw.

“A plebiscite will at least make a strong position as to whether or not the residents agree or disagree,” she said.

“Because what’s been happening in the past is the city calls us the noisy minority and I think this has proven that we’re not the noisy minority.

“That’s what a plebiscite or referendum does, it says, ‘Let’s see what everyone says.’”