Residents of Roberts Creek have been putting the democratic process to the test, engaging in debate and casting votes to determine whether to purchase a piece of what has become controversial land. The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) has been in the process for several months of purchasing property, behind and below Roberts Creek General Store. They have negotiated a price of $800,000 for the property and are now at the point where they have to get the community's approval before carrying on. A crowd of approximately 100 people gathered at Roberts Creek hall on the evening of March 28 to bring forward thoughts and ideas about the potential acquisition. Although it remained a mostly calm evening, there was definite disagreement. The $800,000 figure proved to be the cause of controversy, as those opposed to the purchase said it is overpriced, while those in favour argued the chance to preserve parkland does not come around often. SCRD area director for Roberts Creek Donna Shugar said, "We have a chance to get a government grant. This is our window of opportunity."
The grant Shugar referred to is the Spirit Squares grant, which the government has recently introduced with the purpose of creating more public outdoor space within the province's communities. Shugar said it's an unusual grant as it provides up to 50 per cent of the cost of a community project, including land acquisition.
Those objecting to the purchase are concerned about the value of the property saying it is "worthless" because it cannot be developed due to the low level of the land.
"This is very difficult land to do anything with. The owner can't sell. He's been trying for years," Roberts Creek resident Philip Locke said at the meeting.
Betty Baxter, a 13-year Roberts Creek resident, made a statement that seemed to sum up the argument coming from those in favour of the acquisition. "There's all this talk about whether or not the land can be developed, but I haven't heard one person say that we want to develop it, so why does that matter? We have a government that's ready to grant money now. The value may go up, it may go down, that's not the point. Our opportunity is now," Baxter said. Where the majority of support fell on that evening was difficult to assess, but the guessing ended this Wednesday when the votes were counted. The democratic process the Creek has been engaged in is the alternative approval process (AAP): if 10 per cent of voters are against the acquisition, it will stop the process from going forward. The official numbers are not in yet, but it has been determined that at least 10 per cent of voters have voted no.
"I'm extremely disappointed. I feel this would be a huge asset to the community," Shugar said in an interview Thursday.
The AAP results will be presented to the SCRD board next Thursday where Shugar will have the opportunity to discuss a possible referendum. "If I hear from the community that they want a referendum, I will advocate for that at the board," Shugar added.