The long-delayed Black Street reconstruction is going ahead.
Council passed the controversial project with a four-to-three vote Monday night.
Improving the sewer system and roads have been passed as local improvement charges, meaning Black Street residents will have to shoulder some of the costs.
City officials were vague about what the project entailed and failed to properly notify residents about upcoming hearings and interpreted voting results in an unusual way, all of which led to public opposition to the project.
The city has spent a lot of time and effort on this project and it shouldn’t be wasted, said Coun. Dave Stockdale.
Reassured residents will now be included in every step of the project and costs and loan interest rates will be as accurate as possible, councillors Florence Roberts, Dave Austin and Mayor Bev Buckway joined Stockdale in voting for the project to proceed.
Coun. Betty Irwin was not convinced.
There’s a lack of clarity on the ground and in the territory’s municipal act.
When it comes to voting rules for local improvement charge projects, the law should be reviewed, she said.
Currently, only opposition votes count. That means people who do not vote are considered in favour.
“I appreciate that it was a close vote and that there were some councillors bringing up points that they’d heard during the public hearings,” says Black Street resident Nathan Millar. “But we’re kind of left with the same concerns we had at the beginning. Despite three public hearings, I don’t feel like a lot of our input has been incorporated into the decision.”
It’s not just the concern over voting, he said. The question of what constitutes a local improvement charge was never really addressed, nor was the option to separate the project; the necessary below-ground work, versus the erroneous above-ground improvements, he said.
The city failed to explain itself, which left Millar feeling like he was being strong armed.
Residents are expected to pay 20 per cent of the above ground costs and 100 per cent of whatever they will need to “hook up” to the new sewer lines.
“We discussed this at great length,” said Mayor Bev Buckway. “We run the difficulty all the time of wanting to fix our town up, fix our city up and, of course, people try very hard not to pay for it and I’m sure we’d all do the same. But if we want to see progress in our town … we have to remember that the majority of people did support it, of the residents that did vote.”
There has been no discussion about starting a lawsuit, said Millar, adding he will participate in the process as it moves forward.
“I love living downtown,” he said. “It’s where I want to live.”
Councillors Ranj Pillai and Doug Graham joined Irwin in voting against the project.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at