A petition to hold a referendum on creating a park around McLean Lake will continue, despite the city’s suggestion it wait for legal review.
“I understand that it’s in the city’s best interest to get a grip on the question,” said Marianne Darragh, who is submitting the petition.
“But that doesn’t mean that it changes the process for the citizen.”
The proposed McLean Lake park would surround the entire lake, within a boundary of 500 metres from the lake’s high-water mark.
Darragh tried to give director of administrative services Robert Fendrick notice of the petition on February 27.
Fendrick’s signature is required to begin the 90-day period allowed to collect the names.
However, Fendrick replied that he would have to submit the petition question for legal review.
“It has to be fairly thorough because, when you take a look at the maps there are private lots involved,” he said.
“There’s also a court case ongoing with respect to a quarry in that area.
“It just needs a lot of review to make sure that this is actually something the city can undertake.”
The legal review is due to be completed Friday.
Darragh’s lawyer determined that no legal review was required under the Municipal Act.
“You give them the notice of petition, you agree that the clock starts, then you hand in the petition with the 2,000 signatures,” said Darragh.
After a successful petition, the city needs to create a bylaw, and a referendum is held to vote on that bylaw.
“If the city sees that it’s outside of their authority it can choose to go to the Supreme Court,” she said.
On March 14, Darragh tried again to have the petition signed.
Fendrick was out of town so she had the assistant city clerk stamp the submitted question and began collecting signatures on the petition.
“I know it’s frustrating for her and she’s being persistent, which is great, I mean that’s public input,” said Fendrick.
“But the fact is that any signatures that may be collected on a question that later couldn’t be turned into a valid bylaw, well, those signatures are invalid.”
If the city’s lawyers determine that the question is allowable, then the signatures now being collected will stand.
However, if changes need to be made or if the question is rejected outright, those signatures will become invalid, said Fendrick.
“To me it really sounds like they’ve started a campaign against this petition,” said Darragh.
“And that’s not what you expect your municipality to do.”
The referendum will cost the city $14,000 if the petition is pushed through, said Fendrick.
“And you get low voter turnout for these types of questions,” he said.
“If you get about 10 to 20 per cent of the population deciding these issues, what have you really gained?”
The lake is already environmentally protected, added Fendrick.
There is a buffer zone surrounding the lake. But it’s much smaller than the 500 metres proposed in the petition.
And the city is already planning to discuss turning McLean Lake into a park during its review of the Official Community Plan this September.
“That’s purely reactive and it’s trying to trivialize everyone’s efforts,” said Darragh.
“It’s the same reason he tells us the petition is stalled until he approves it.
“You really have to examine what (Fendrick’s) saying because this isn’t just about McLean Lake, it’s about their whole treatment of the citizen — initiated process.”