James Crosty has been amazed by the public oppositions to the city's plan to borrow up to $59 million to build an office tower above the future civic centre.
The City of New Westminster has launched an "alternative approval process" in which electors who are opposed to the loan authorization bylaw must sign forms and submit them to city hall by 4: 30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7. Residents who support the bylaw don't have to do anything.
When the Uptown Property Group decided against building an office tower on top of the future civic centre on Columbia Street, the city decided to proceed with construction of the office development on its own.
The city is proposing to borrow up to $59 million that it would put toward the $94 million project.
Crosty, who lost his bid for mayor in the November 2011 municipal election, has spearheaded a campaign to collect signatures on forms from electors who are opposed to the loan.
He's making the forms available at his business, STC Creative, at 239 Sixth St. between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, but the forms can also be picked up at the reception desk at city hall or be found on the city's website and printed off.
"We are at over 500 - signed," he said. "I think we could make it. There is a mood out there that is really unhappy."
The City of New Westminster is able to proceed with adopting the loan authorization bylaw unless at least 10 per cent of the estimated number of electors in the city (4,528 people) sign an alternative approval process elector response form. If there is sufficient petitions to oppose the loan authorization bylaw, the city would have to go to a referendum to get support from taxpayers to borrow the funds.
"This is the largest borrowing bylaw in the history of the city - $59 million," Crosty said.
Crosty said he doesn't oppose using casino funds to build a civic centre, but he opposes borrowing money to build an office tower. He's also concerned that the process is taking place during the summer and that the city is limiting individuals to getting 25 forms each day from city hall.
"If you look at the need for people to have to go there - can you imagine 4,500 people at city hall?" he said. "Most of the people who are really upset are seniors. They don't have a lot of access to the Internet."
City administrator Paul Daminato said the legislation that's in place for alternate approval processes doesn't specify the number of forms that must be made avail-able, only that forms must be available.
"It's available for anybody to download," he added. "Copies of the forms are also acceptable. People are welcome to do that."
Crosty had originally requested 1,000 copies of the forms, a request denied by city hall.
"We talked about the practice of giving out multiple forms to one individual," Daminato said. "We would be willing to do that. We had to come up with a number that is reasonable."
Daminato said the city settled on 25 copies per person daily. He's heard of no other complaints about the daily limit, noting people can print their own copies off the city's website.
Crosty had asked the City of New Westminster to amend the process to allow more than one name on each form, but the city declined.
The total budget for the project is $94 million, which includes $41.5 million for the civic centre, $12.5 million for the parking structure (to be used by the office tower and the civic facility), and $40 million for the office development.
The city will use $43 million in casino money known as "development assistance compensation" for the project.