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Letter regarding City of North Battlefords Official Community pl

November 19th 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Re: Official Community Plan and Open House

The members of our Board of Directors are most disturbed by some of the proposals contained in the OCP and with the process established for community information and input.  Among other matters, we respectfully request that the process be amended to allow for meaningful public information and disclosure and “feedback”.

As advertised, the City has been investing time, effort and money over the past three years to craft the OCP and associated proposed bylaw.  The written materials involve 68 pages of the OCP itself and 154 pages of the draft bylaw along with numerous maps.  These materials were first made public part way into this month of November.

The City administration seems to be suggesting that what took three years to develop should be read, understood and considered by affected persons and organizations in less than two weeks so that there is real value, to the City and others, in attending the “open house” today.  We are of the respectful opinion that no one involved in establishing this process can honestly believe that it represents consultation, in the clear meaning of that word.

We do not have a definitive alterative plan but are of the view that meetings by the City with the public generally and affected persons and organizations specifically is a bare minimum if there is a sincere interest on the part of the City to garner cogent, well-considered, thoughtful and useful comment.  By “meetings with the public” we contemplate City officials and/or members of Council attending meetings at which the materials are verbally reviewed along with audio-video assistance.  We contemplate meetings where, for example, all of the service clubs and others that have a stake in the annual Northwest Territorial Days event are contacted and invited to an open meeting at which time it will be explained how the conceptual plans affect them.   Both the minimal advertising that has announced the open house and the open house itself are nothing more than a false posture of informing and requesting comment.

Your officials will protest that once the “informal” process of the open house has been completed, the “legal” process will begin and concerned persons may make representations to Council at Council meetings.  We do not contest this assertion but it puts the burden of reading, analyzing and considering the voluminous materials and crafting a logical presentation.  Rhetorically we ask, is there anyone from the City who honestly believes that a truly representative part of the persons and organizations affected will have the capacity and stamina to embark on this process? 

 Apart from process, we have been able to identify intolerable proposals as the same affect the Society. 

The draft proposed bylaw would rezone the land leased by the Society (generally known as “the fair grounds”) so as to prohibit the activities now carried on by the Society and the various service clubs that raise thousands of dollars at North West Territorial Days.  Your officials point out that such activities will be “grandfathered” so that these activities may continue, notwithstanding the prohibition.  However, such is of no consolation for at least two reasons.  First, our lease with the City is terminable on six month’s notice.  Second, neither the Society nor the service clubs may construct, renovate or reconstruct any of its buildings. 

As a result for example, our barns, which are over 100 years old, cannot be replaced when (not if) they must be demolished for safety reasons.  We anticipate such demolition sooner rather than later.  One cannot seriously consider the continued viability of an Agricultural Society without barns within which to accommodate farm animals. 

The proposed bylaw would prohibit renovation of any of the church’s or service clubs’ buildings as well as the Society’s buildings whether such renovations are necessary for efficiency or safety.  It would further prohibit new church groups or service clubs from adding additional structures to provide services at the exhibition.

Second, the OCP contemplates a future road that will bisect the parking lot, the midway location and the balance of the leased land as well as taking out all of the church and service club booths. Reverting to the process concerns, it seems self-evident that the City is under an obligation to notify each of such affected groups of this contemplated result and that such notification should be meaningful and sincere.  Respectfully, the open house falls dismally short of this obligation.

Your officials contend that once the OCP is adopted (along with the proposed bylaw) the Society and the City can enter into discussions on the relocation of the Society and its activities.  Such a process is backwards.  For the discussions to be meaningful and a viable plan devised (including funding), such must be concluded before passage of a plan which seals the doom of the Society.

At one time the City suggested that the leased land was needed in order to accommodate “big box” stores.  The latest dream is that the bisecting road will lead to an “8th Street (Saskatoon) type development.  We are now told that that the land is also required for sale and development in order to help fund the new sewage treatment plant.  This of course flies in the face of your officials’ assertion that the proposed road and land sales are 25 to 30 years away.

Our Society has existed and served the Battlefords for 126 years and has been in its present location for over 100 years.  Our dream is that when the centennial time capsule is opened in 2113 the Society will still be in existence and serving the Battlefords.  The City’s current proposals turn our dream into a nightmare.

If the City is determined to proceed with the proposed OCP and associated bylaw we suggest as follows:

The City renew the lease for 25 years (the minimum time limit that the City envisages the road being constructed and land being sold). 

The City expand the lease footprint so as to compensate the Society for the land taken by the City for construction of the CUPlex.

The leased land not be rezoned.

We reserve the right to circulate a copy of this email to whomever we think will have an interest in its contents.

 

Yours truly,

 

 

Jocelyn Ritchie

General Manager

For the Board of Directors