By David F. Rooney
The Revelstoke Community Housing Society’s Annual General Meeting got off to a very bad start on Monday afternoon as its directors briefly, but seriously, considered closing their meeting to the media and three members of the public who were present.
After some discussion as to whether they should do that, they decided — presumably because to do otherwise would not look good in light of the City’s stated desire to improve its public image — to proceed.
And that’s when they discovered — lo and behold! — they didn’t have a quorum because at least five of the 10 voting directors’ terms had expired and they had not been reappointed. A sixth director, Brian Sumner, has resigned from the society board.
And just to frost that particular cake, Director Chris Johnston pointed out that, as a result, any of the decisions they’ve made since Jan. 1 are null and void because they did not have a duly constituted board of directors.
The Society had apparently altered directors’ terms last year, making them three years long. However, the wording they used ensured that would only apply to new directors not those who were then serving. The only people sitting at the table who could vote were City Council members Antoinette Halberstadt, Phil Welock and Chris Johnston. A fourth, Steve Bender, was not present, although Mayor David Raven was present for the meeting.
Consequently they now need City Council to appoint two new directors so that they can at least have a quorum for their next meeting — and a real AGM — and advertise for four new public members.
Although the board was clearly uncomfortable at having a journalist and members of the public present they did grant them an opportunity to ask questions as long as it was understood that, as Johnston put it, “it as though we’re just standing around talking on a street corner.”
Pointed questions for the society
Be that as it may, the questions from Glenn O’Reilly and Karen Matthews — both residents of CPR Hill who have concerns about the society’s stated goal of building two rental properties on Maple Street — were pointed. (A third member of the public, Dennis Holdener, was also present but did not ask any questions.)
O’Reilly wanted to know who the developer would be — nobody would or could say — and whether there would be a public tendering process. He also said the land in question was so steep that “short of building a concrete bunker and shoving into that bank I can’t see it,” while Matthews wanted to know why a flatter parcel of land like, say, the Bridge Creek property, wasn’t considered for this project. They asked a number of other questions that eventually prompted Housing Society Manager Corin Flood to respond saying, “These aren’t neighbourhood concerns — they’re technical concerns.”
But Johnston interjected: “That’s not fair they are community concerns.”
“They are neighbourhood concerns,” responded O’Reilly. “My neighbour who lives right below that property came to me and said he was worried about it sliding down onto his house.” (Below, you can see a Google Earth image of the property in question, completed with Xs O’Reilly inserted to mark the location of the proposed rental development.)
This reflects a fear that several people have expressed, in writing, to Council and the society. Parts of CPR Hill are known to be geologically unstable and one landslide in the area several years ago proved to be fatal. The last landslide in the area was in 1999. Despite that, the society seems determined to build there instead of Bridge Creek.
Board members said developing Bridge Creek would cost way too much at this time and City services were easily accessible off of Maple Street. However, as Matthews noted later, city services are located near Bridge Creek and with the Ambulance Station planned for construction at bridge Creek the society could piggyback on that provincially funded development. In any event, she said, “you don’t have to develop all of Bridge Creek all at once.”
Matthews and O’Reilly were not satisfied with the outcome of their little chat with the society.
Residents question society’s transparency
“They seemed elusive,” O’Reilly said. He was also disturbed that other CPR Hill residents who had wanted to attend the meeting were told that members of the public would not be welcomed. “I decided I’d go anyway,” he said.
Matthews said she was pleased that some questions were answered but she was bothered by the tone of the meeting, too.
“I believe there is not full transparency and there is not full disclosure,” she said. “It makes people feel skeptical. You cannot come away from a meeting like that feeling good.”
It should be noted that the society has received $250,000 to develop rental housing in Revelstoke. BC Hydro granted the money because so many existing rental properties were snapped up by Unit 5 workers, which also drove up rental prices. The grant expires at the end of this year.
As for the society’s annual general meeting. It will be held sometime within the next two months.
Click here to read an opinion piece on the Housing Society.