It’s official. West Kelowna’s city hall borrowing referendum was defeated by 27 votes.
Chief election officer Tracey Batten announced the official result Wednesday afternoon, the same result that was made public 90 minutes hours after the polls closed on Saturday night—4,212 votes opposing the borrowing and 4,185 votes for it.
Batten said while the vote was “audited” over the last three days by city staff, a line-by-line review of all votes did not take place because, she said, that is not required under the Local Government Act.
“The ballots were not recounted,” she told a packed West Kelowna council chamber Wednesday.
She said the provincial rules governing referendums do allow a voter to call for a judicial recount if he or she feel the ballots were not counted properly or there was improper voting. But, she said, that request must be made within nine days of the vote taking place. That would mean, if a judicial recount is to be asked for, it must be done by next Monday.
Peter Wannop, co-chair of the Yes campaign, said no decision had been made about calling for a judicial recount but he said he had calls into the province to gather information he feels he would need to make such a decision.
Batten said as far as the city is concerned, the issued is now closed.
“I have officially reported the result,” she said.
Speaking Tuesday night after the West Kelowna council meeting, Mayor Doug Findlater, who campaigned hard to win approval of the request to borrow $7.7 million for the $14.8 million civic centre project, said he felt it was time to move on from the vote.
He said while he was personally disappointed in the result, the public had spoken and the city has many other issues to deal with.
Findlater was not at Tuesday’s official result announcement.
West Kelowna chief administrative officer Jim Zaffino said city staff will now put together a report for council detailing options for expanding space at the existing municipal offices at the Mt. Boucherie recreation complex.That report will go to council Oct. 11.
The new city hall was sought because the staff of the nine-year-old city has outgrown the existing facilities.
The city hall project would have also provided a civic plaza and returned the space currently used by the city for offices for recreation.
The city predicted the civic centre complex would have also spurred economic growth in the floundering Westbank town centre.
The city hall building, part of a larger complex of four buildings in total—three of which would have been privately owned—was to include space for a consolidation of Interior Health’s Westside services in one the buildings. The other two were to be residential.
Rob Moyor of Strategic Development Group, the private developer that would have built the three privately owned buildings and which owns most of the land at the Elliott Road site in Westbank, said his company will now look at developing the land on its own. It could be solely residential buildings on the site, he said.
The inclusion of Inteiror Health was contingent on the city hall being built on the site, he said.
There’s no word yet on what the city will do with the land it owns at the site. That land was to have housed the new city hall.
Ian Graham, who lead the No side in the referendum, said after the result was made official that he is not sure if it really is now over.
“I think this could be the beginning of the end,” he said. “But in this town, I don’t know if it is ever done.”
A breakdown of the polling results shows the No vote was stronger in the second day of advance polling and at three of the four polls on Saturday—Const. Neil Bruce Middle School, Glenrosa Middle School and Mar Jok Elementary in Rose Valley. The Yes vote was stronger only at the George Pringle Elementary in Westbank.