Sechelt council has stalled the Sunshine Coast Regional District's (SCRD) plans to renovate and expand its new offices at 1975 Field Road in Wilson Creek.
After some debate and a split vote about approving the SCRD's building application, which falls within Sechelt's boundaries, councillors decided to recommend the SCRD prepare an alternative development strategy.
The decision came after Coun. Ed Steeves, who also chairs the SCRD, left the room during Sechelt's regular council meeting August 4.
"I left because I didn't want to be accused of undue influence on the council's decision," said Steeves.
But with Steeves out of the room, just four councillors remained; Mayor Cam Reid and Coun. Ann Kershaw were off on holidays. Remaining councillors Barry Poole, Darren Inkster, Warren Allan and Mike Shanks were split about whether or not to approve the SCRD's building application.
Poole and Inkster voted yes, while Allan and Shanks voted no.
"The point I wish to make is, since we received this report, the cost has mushroomed considerably. It seems to be getting out of line in my personal opinion," said Shanks.
He noted Sechelt taxpayers would be on the hook to pay for part of the renovation that is currently estimated to cost about $3.6 million, up about $1.6 million from the agreed upon cap of $2 million the SCRD board set earlier this year.
"I do share your concerns on the costs of the SCRD building, but on the other hand, this is a development permit. I don't see that we can turn down a development permit because we are not happy with our share of the SCRD building cost," said Poole, who was chairing the meeting in Reid and Kershaw's absence.
When a vote was called on approving the development permit, it was split down the middle and the motion was defeated.
Shanks introduced another option which was "to recommend that the applicant prepare an alternative development strategy.
"That could mean a much smaller building," said Shanks.
All four councillors voted in favour of Shanks' motion.
After the meeting, Steeves said he was disappointed with council's decision. "I don't think they understand the full ramifications of this or grasp the importance of it," he said.
He noted councillors would be attending a special meeting about the development permit on Friday, Aug. 6, at 3 p.m. to "hopefully reconsider." The meeting was held after Coast Reporter went to press.
Coast Reporter contacted Reid, who was on vacation. He said he would be in attendance at the Friday meeting but could not comment on council's decision, as he didn't hear the debate.
Kershaw said she cannot make the special meeting but felt confident there would be enough councillors there to make an informed decision.
Steeves said he didn't plan to attend the meeting because he still feels it is a conflict of interest.