A group of Cluculz Lake property owners have met with a lawyer to prepare their appeal of last month's Vanderhoof pool referendum.
After more than 200 people attended a meeting on Saturday, organizers quickly got to work seeking out legal counsel in order to get the paperwork filed by the March 23 deadline.
The group alleges procedural irregularities should invalidate the Feb. 16 vote ,which will allow the District of Vanderhoof and Area F within the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to levy taxes to help pay for the $4 million municipal portion of the cost for a $12 million aquatic centre.
Dick Martin, one of the group's organizers, said people at Saturday's meeting were asked to share their stories as the group tried to bolster its legal case
"We explained what we were trying to do," he said. "We were trying to see how many people had been denied the same privileges as somebody else or when they drove all the way and didn't have the right paper work and were told they needed to come back."
The fee for the first step in the appeal is expected to be around $3,000, but the entire process could cost the property owners anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000. About 150 people at the meeting signed a letter indicating they were supportive of the appeal and willing to offer financial support for the legal costs.
Close to 100 people signed a separate petition calling for a boycott of Vanderhoof businesses.
Among the irregularities the group has uncovered are that mail-in voting was only available to people within the Cluculz Lake fire protection area, required paperwork which was not part of mail outs from the regional district and a discrepancy between the number of the bylaw, which was described in the voting material, and the number of the bylaw on the ballot.
"Why would you as a shareholder of [a property] on Bobtail, living in Kamloops not be able to do a mail-in versus a guy in Cluculz Lake, who lives there, can do a mail-in?," Martin said. "Why would one group get something another group can't have?"
The chief paperwork complaint centres around the rule that seasonal property owners get one vote per property rather than one vote per resident. That means the owners of shared properties needed to name one elector for their group and get the other parties to sign written consent to indicate as much.
However they claim that explanation wasn't provided in the original information package and was only included if someone signed up to vote by mail.
"It's not in the letter they mailed out, telling you that you would need this, nor was it on their website," Martin said, before adding there was a letter telling people about the requirement at public meetings but they weren't widely circulated.
As a result, Martin said some people showed up at the polls without the proper documentation and were denied a ballot.
"Basically, your right to vote was taken away," he said.
Martin said he believes his group has a good case, but they're keeping some of their evidence of process flaws private at this point in the proceedings.
The vote passed with majorities both in Vanderhoof and the regional district. The municipal government now has five years to fundraise about $8 million to cover the rest of the cost of the facility. The taxes won't be levied until the funding is in place and the project is approved.