Crosty contemplates campaign against office complex borrowing
James Crosty, who failed in a bid to unseat Mayor Wayne Wright last fall, is contemplating leading a campaign to stop the city from borrowing money to pay for an office complex connected to the civic centre currently under construction in Downtown New Westminster. After its original partner, Uptown Property Group, pulled out of the project’s development, city council announced in April it would continue with construction of the office complex.
The city is planning to borrow from the Municipal Finance Authority to help pay for the eight-storey building and parking complex.
Technically, the city is borrowing $59 million with $11 million targeted for the parking structure and the rest going to other planned infrastructure projects which originally were to be paid out of city reserves. The city, however, now plans to pay the expected $33-million office complex cost out of the reserves. Council hopes to eventually sell the structure to a management company that specializes in office complexes.
Taxpayers can object to the move by signing a form before Aug. 7. If more than 10 per cent of the eligible voters from the last election, which works out to 4,528, submit their opposition to the borrowing then it can be repealed.
“The public has not approved building an office tower on the taxpayers’ backs,” said Crosty, who appeared before council Monday night.
“All they had to do last night was rescind it and bring it back on Aug. 27 (the next council meeting), and the mayor chose to shut the discussion down.”
Crosty, who collected less than half the votes of Wright last November, called it a negative option process because not signing the form means a taxpayer is approving the borrowing whether they know it or not. He said such a decision should go to referendum.
“That’s a really low way of approaching taxpayers and borrowing the money for this. The public has the right to know where the money is being spent,” said Crosty. “Whether it’s right or wrong, the motivation behind that is suspect to me.”
Crosty said he is being encouraged to start up a campaign, similar to the one waged against the province’s imposition of the HST. However, as of earlier this week he was still contemplating whether to give it a go or not. “There’s a lot of people unhappy with this thing,” he said.
Wright said the borrowing is no different than what the city did to pay for the Westminster Pier Park project and what other municipalities throughout the region do.
“We’re following all the rules,” said Wright.
Although Coun. Chuck Puchmayr opposed the decision for the city to do the project on its own, he doesn’t object to the process that’s being carried out.
“I don’t see anything there that is irregular, so I don’t understand the purpose of what [Crosty] was getting across,” said Puchmayr. “I have certainly no concerns about the process we are engaging in. The majority of council made a decision, the decision entails using reserves to build a significant project, so they decided to bolster the reserve pool to do the things required, and bridge the gap between building and receiving the casino gift money. There has to be an ability to do that. Everything brought forward is completely above board.”