Hillcrest residents vote to torpedo infrastructure project

The results of the May 9 vote are in and Hillcrest homeowners have turned down the the proposed Hillcrest improvement project.

The results of the May 9 vote are in and Hillcrest homeowners have turned down the the proposed Hillcrest improvement project.

Of 168 ballots, there were 94 votes against, which means 56 per cent of voters said no to the project. The city needed 50 per cent plus one in favour in order to proceed.

Unreturned ballots were counted as yes votes.

The much-debated project had raised the ire of some residents due to the local improvement charge (LIC) associated with it, which would have seen the average homeowner shell out $15,000 to pay for a portion of the proposed surface work.

Some residents came before council on May 8 to express their concerns about the project, which unanimously involved the difficulty they or their neighbours would have in paying the LIC.

“I don’t like feeling like the city is not doing something for us, but to us,” said resident Laura Beady.

Residents could either pay the LIC upfront, take a loan from the city at 6.25 per cent interest, or get a bank loan, said Shaunagh Stikeman, president of the Hillcrest Community Association.

Residents were being asked to choose between financial security and reliable access to water services, said Stikeman.

“With respect to the cost,” she said, “it was simply too much for some people to afford.”

Hillcrest resident Jim Gilpin said at the time that if the project was rejected, it would be an “opportunity to press pause,” for the city.

“This is a potentially positive turning point,” said Stikeman. “The city has an opportunity to revisit its LIC policies and Hillcrest would welcome these discussions.”

Mike Gau, director of development services for the city, said he thought outcome was unfortunate.

“A lot of work has been put into this…. And we’ll have to regroup and see where we go from there.”

Gau said that if “critical” work came up that would need to be done immediately, the city would have to go ahead and do it without a vote. This would not involve a LIC.

The city would like to see the water main on the far side of the Alaska Highway connected to Roundel Road, he said.

At this point, the city can either vote to move forward on the project without a LIC, or else wait a year and table the proposal again, said Stikeman.

Gau confirmed that the city cannot retable the proposal for another year, unless “substantial changes” were made to it, something the city doesn’t have the capacity to do this year.

“There is no plan to restart the project at this time,” Gau said.

In the meantime, Gau said the city will, “have to look to see what can be changed in the design (of the project), why the vote failed.”

Seeing so many homeowners vote “was a win for the community association,” whose official position on the project was neutral, Stikeman said.

“This isn’t a vote against local improvement,” said Stikeman, “This was a vote for a fairer way to pay for it.”

The city released the vote results Friday after initially saying the numbers would remain secret until a standing committee meeting scheduled for May 15.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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