Nanoose Bay residents have again expressed their objections to a proposed bylaw amendment that would require them to pay taxes for the Ravensong Aquatic Centre.
They appeared as delegation at the Regional District of Nanaimo board meeting on April 27. They are against the proposal to tax Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay) based on 50 per cent usage and 50 per cent on property assessments. Nanoose Bay residents have not paid for the pool service since it was built in 1995.
The residents indicated the RDN made a decision arbitrarily, without giving residents an opportunity to provide input. They also called the tax allocation formula “inequitable” as only 3.9 per cent of Area E residents use the Qualicum Beach pool. It would mean Area E would pay 11 per cent of the funding for the aquatic services.
Randy Henderson regards the user-fee principle as a fair model for Area E residents. He is not surprised that less than four per cent of the population from Nanoose Bay use the aquatic centre.
“It is simply too far away for regular use from both time and cost perspective,” said Henderson. “We all know driving is the only practical option from out here. With today’s concerns over environment impacts it’s certainly harmful from an emissions perspective to have all of us out on the roads trying to access a facility which is for me personally, would be 30 minutes each direction just to use it.”
Henderson added if the RDN decides to maintain the proposed allocation of taxes, public engagement should be held to allow Nanoose Bay residents a chance to express their views.
“A very easy, straightforward way would be a referendum where only Area E residents vote as they’re the ones impacted unfairly,” said Henderson, who pointed out that if it was for a critical service like a firehall or water service he would understand the tax allocation, but not for a swimming pool.
Area G (Englishman River, San Pareil, French Creek, Little Qualicum, Dashwood) director Lehann Wallace asked Henderson how the usage fee would be equitable when she has constituents who reside just on the boundary of Nanoose Bay.
“They would pay the same amount of the Area G residents that live outside of the Town of Qualicum Beach,” said Wallace, whose Area G jurisdiction includes areas in Nanoose Bay, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Dashwood. “So how would your usage model provide equitable taxes for Area G?”
Area H (Bowser, Horne Lake, Deep Bay, Qualicum Bay) director Stuart McLean asked Henderson as well if it is fair that his area, which is a similar distance or farther from the pool, should be paying more than Nanoose Bay residents.
Henderson insisted based on statistics, the user-pay model is the best option for Area E.
Area E director Bob Rogers made a motion for the RDN board to rescind second and third reading of a bylaw amendment that will include Nanoose Bay in the funding of aquatic services. This would allow the RDN to review the tax allocation option of the proposed bylaw amendment. He said it should be based on usage, similar to what the southern electoral areas are doing for aquatic services in Nanaimo.
The board had a lengthy discussion on the motion with some favouring it as they felt Area E was denied the opportunity to provide input and should have been given the chance to vote on it via a referendum. Some suggested a question be included in the ballots in the coming municipal elections.
McLean suggested if the referendum option is to be considered, then it should include all the electoral areas, not just Area E.
“What this is all about is fairness and equity, and equal pay for equal benefit,” said McLean.
Rogers’s motion did not pass but the vote was close with nine in favour and 10 opposed.