Council's decision follows the Dec. 19 release of a Joint Review Panel decision that approved the pipeline and tanker project carrying bitumen from Alberta's oil sands across B.C., for shipment to Asia.
The federal government has the final say on the pipeline, which came with 209 conditions, and must reveal its decision within the next six months.
Kitimat has remained neutral on the multibillion-dollar project and issued a statement late last year saying council will take the necessary time to review the Joint Review Panel report.
The northwestern B.C. community would be the end of the line for the bitumen pipeline and the port where hundreds of oil-loaded tankers would leave for Asia every year.
Recent real estate assessment values suggest Kitimat housing prices have risen dramatically, some homes by as much as 26 per cent, over speculation of an oil and natural gas boom.
District council and staff will decide the plebiscite question for voters and the date for the non-binding, referendum-style vote in the coming weeks.
The plebiscite fulfills council's resolution adopted in January 2012 to survey Kitimat residents about their opinion of the Northern Gateway project, once the review panel completed its work.
Kitimat Coun. Rob Goffinet, who proposed the motion for the plebiscite, told a council meeting Monday night that polling residents instead would not work.
"Because people do not want a pollster to phone them and do a check list (asking) how do you feel on a project," he said.
"There's only one way. I would give total responsibility to every adult citizen of Kitimat who has a point of view to express it in a yes or no ballot."
Coun. Mario Feldhoff, who for the first time declared that he favours the Northern Gateway project, told council he supported use of a polling firm to conduct a survey, which he believed could produce a more statistically significant result than a plebiscite.
However, Coun. Phil Germuth told the meeting he believed an unbiased question could be posed in the form of a referendum on the Northern Gateway project.
"I have full confidence in our staff that they will be able, along with some assistance from council, to develop questions that are not going to appear biased. It should be very simple, yes means yes, no means no."
The vote is non-binding on council, and it's unclear how the vote will be used when the ballots have been counted.
Staff assured council that although the vote would have to be held under the provisions of the Local Government Act, which covers elections and referendums, use of a plebiscite would give council more flexibility in deciding how the balloting would take place. The act would still cover voter eligibility and the use of campaign signs.
Councillors also approved a motion calling on the District to meet with Enbridge (TSX:ENB), the company proposing the pipeline, to discuss an enhanced pipeline leak detection system where a leak could "impact the Kitimat watershed."
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