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Ladysmith launching AAP to try to borrow $13.5 million for new city hall

Alternative-approval process for Buller Street revitalization project starts May 24
The Town of Ladysmith will launch an alternative-approval process Friday, May 24, to try to gain elector approval to borrow $13.5 million to construct a new city hall and institutional space on Buller Street. (Chronicle file photo)

The Town of Ladysmith is starting an alternative-approval process this week to try to secure residents’ blessing to borrow $13.5 million for a new city hall.

Ladysmith council, at a meeting May 14, voted to launch an AAP for the Buller Street revitalization project which will include a city hall and institutional/commercial space, totalling 25,000 square feet, below approximately 95 rental housing units. The project is a partnership with the provincial government through the new B.C. Builds program to accelerate housing development on publicly owned land.

The alternative-approval process begins Friday, May 24, and ends June 25. If fewer than 10 per cent of voters fill out elector response forms indicating opposition to the project, then the town can proceed with trying to secure long-term borrowing. A staff report noted that the estimated yearly payment would be $860,500.

Jake Belobaba, the town’s director of development services, said staff anticipates receiving early design work on the project this month, and council expressed interest in sharing more information with the public as soon as possible.

“We’re asking for a favourable response, but I could understand some people having some angst as to ‘OK, what is it going to be?’” said Coun. Duck Paterson.

Mayor Aaron Stone said it’s critical to make information about the project available to residents from Day 1.

“Vaccinating folks against bad information with good information is also really important,” he said.

Paterson said a new city hall is “very, very, very much-needed,” and Stone said the need is clearly demonstrated in the day-to-day operations of the municipality.

According to a previous staff report, the current city hall, built in the early 1950s, “no longer fits the needs of community,” with staff required to work out of multiple locations, and off-site storage utilized due to “moisture and rodent issues” at the existing location.

“It’s really not a suitable facility and based on how we’ve watched the costs escalate year by year over the last 10 years, it’s definitely not getting any cheaper,” the mayor said.

Council voted 6-1 to proceed with the AAP. Coun. Marsh Stevens was opposed, but did not elaborate on his reason for voting against the motion.

Meanwhile, some residents are already organizing opposition to the AAP. Richard Kinar, one of those community members, said he and other citizens don’t trust the town to deliver a large-scale project on time and on budget.

“I think we’re taking a neutral position on whether it’s a good project or a bad project – it’s the competency to pull it off and the consequences to the municipality as a whole,” he said.

Kinar, who also opposed the eviction of the Ladysmith Maritime Society from the former community marina, said opposing the city hall project is not about “revenge,” but said the town wasn’t forthcoming with answers on that decision, which is cause for concern now.

He said he’s also against the alternative-approval mechanism.

“The AAP process is kind of like negative billing and it’s offensive, particularly since we’re in a period where people’s budgets are stretched beyond belief,” he said.

READ ALSO: Town of Ladysmith plans to launch AAP to borrow for new city hall

About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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