Final days for counter-petition process on lease

Citizens have until Friday, Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. to register their opposition to a lease agreement intended to support the Ross St. Underpass.

With just two days remaining to voice opposition to a Ross Street underpass land lease proposal, the Committee for a Strong and Sustainable Salmon Arm (CASSSA) is hoping to garner enough signatures to stop the deal.

The group’s latest strategy is an email they hope will go viral, asking eligible Salmon Arm voters to make their opposition known to the city by the deadline, which is 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10.

The purpose of the lease is to use the lots for parking or some other public use, including as a staging area for the construction of the Ross Street underpass, estimated by city staff to cost between $7 and 9 million.

If the lease is approved, the city will receive from the lessor, WH Laird Holdings Ltd. – owned by developer Bill Laird, statutory right of way along property on both sides of the tracks, including a road dedication the city would also acquire through a lot between Shuswap Park Mall and the CP Rail station.

On Monday, City Corporate Officer Cory Paiement would acknowledge only that there has been interest in the community, with residents continuing to pick up information packages and submit completed forms.

“I won’t disclose numbers since it may influence the process,” he said, emphasizing the deadline for public response is this Friday afternoon. “It has to be date stamped and as we get down to Friday, the time they arrive will also be noted.”

After the deadline, Paiement will scrutinize what has been submitted and report to council, something he hopes to do at the Jan. 27 council meeting.

“If 10 per cent of the electorate or 1,361 persons have submitted the forms and we have received them, council is unable to enter into the lease agreement,” he said. “If they wanted to proceed, they would have to receive the assent of the electors via referendum.”

The last-minute push by CASSSA is in addition to canvassing being done by a number of members.

As of Monday morning, Judith Benson had approached some 50 people and acquired 37 signatures on a petition protesting a proposed 10-year lease agreement, at $33,000 per year, for two lots on the north side of the train tracks.

“The people who have been reading the publications signed, no problem, but others are skeptical,” said Benson, noting some people told her they have to think more, while others were unwilling to sign what they didn’t understand. “It’s good if people are skeptical, if they want to know more about it.”

At the request of CASSSA, Tibout Glazenburg, former owner of Gondwana Gallery, agreed to make copies of the city’s Elector Response Form available in the Lakeshore Drive store.

At last count, he had 250 signatures and says he knows of another member who had about 150 signatures but was unaware of how many people were canvassing for CASSSA.

The now-retired Glazenburg says one of the common themes he heard when people entered his store to sign the form was that the timing for the alternate approval process was poor.

“The pity is that $300,000 is down the drain if the underpass does not go forward,” he says. “That commitment is there; why not do the referendum first and find out what people want.”

Salmon Arm Observer