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General News · 8th August 2018
Noba Anderson
All the web links should now be working. You can also download this article attached as a PDF below as another way to access all the web links

There is a lot going on at the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) that is relevant to Cortes. I will share more updates soon, but here I offer you a summary of the 5 items coming to you for your formal vote. This will happen through two different electoral assent process – two alternate approval processes and three non-binding referendums. One issue is regional, the establishment of a region-wide tax service primarily to receive and administer the SRD’s portion ($33 million) of the $45 million federal and provincial funds for the Connected Coast sub-sea fibre-optic cable project. The other four are Cortes-specific. The first is the long-standing hall tax issue. The next two, at the Cortes Fire Department’s request, are an update to the existing fire service to formalize some largely existing practices and the other is to establish a new First Responder service. The final one (which I hope will get to you in time) is regarding the proposed unsightly premise regulatory bylaw. This is all culminating at the end of the electoral term and the civic election is an opportune and cost-effective way of hosting referendum questions.

Let me be abundantly clear. These are all over to you for your vote or assent. In each case, the vote requests have come from Cortes (with the obvious exception of the regional internet project) and in each case it will be up to you to guide and decide.

Connected Coast Service
The first, and only regional, proposed tax service currently on the table is the Connected Coast service. Many coastal residents do not have access to reliable and affordable internet. The intention of the Connected Coast project is to bring new or improved high-speed internet accessibility to 154 rural and remote coastal communities through the placement of sub-sea fibre-optic cable circumnavigating Vancouver Island and running north to Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii. The Connected Coast Project is a $45.4 million project, funded in full by the Federal and Provincial governments; something that is almost unheard of! Much more info on the whole project can be found at www.connectedcoast.ca

In order to receive these funds, the SRD must establish a ‘tax service’ – like opening a bank account. For that we need your approval. Although this project is fully funded, the Province has required that we provide a financial security through creating the ability to tax residents to fund any unanticipated cost overruns. That is why the service has embedded in it a $0.25 per $1,000 taxation capacity. Because we do not ever wish to tax you, we are also proposing to have the ability to borrow up to $6 million. Any borrowed funds would be lent to the Strathcona Connected Coast Network Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Strathcona Regional District, to finance broadband infrastructure development and operations. The SRD has developed a business case, working with telecom industry experts, which demonstrates that the regional broadband service will eventually become a self-sustaining service and not require that we draw on the property-tax guarantee. But this is a condition we must meet if we want to receive the grant funds to make this project happen.

In short, under Bylaws 321 and 322, the SRD is proposing to seek electoral approval for the establishment of a service for providing broadband infrastructure through the Connected Coast project as well as the authorization to borrow up to $6 million, if required, to cover projected short-term operating deficits and possible project cost overruns.

So it’s up to you. If the service is established, we can deposit these Federal and Provincial grant funds and begin the work. If we want to receive these millions of dollars, we must offer a guarantee. So, the question before you is whether you are opposed to the SRD establishing a service for providing broadband infrastructure and authorizing the SRD to borrow an amount not to exceed $6 million to finance the project if required. Although we do not expect to use this taxation authority, we MUST put it in place before we can receive the grant money. So the worst case scenario is that a $300,000 home is charged $75 per year. The anticipated scenario is that you will be changed nothing while being provided better internet backbone technology.

Many, many details have yet to be worked out. But in essence, the intent is to provide publicly owned fibre optic cable (rather than the near inaccessible private Telus cable currently crossing Cortes) and provide more access to that bandwidth to internet service providers such as Twincomm.

If you object to this new service and associated borrowing, then you have until September 4th to sign an elector response form. If 10% of the region-wide population object, then this whole project will stop. The form can be found here http://strathconard.ca/sites/srd.civicwebcms.com/files/media/Bylaw%20No.%20321%2C%20322%20Elector_Response_Form_.pdf

For more compact information about this project and the assent voting option, visit http://strathconard.ca/aap-process-bylaws-321-and-322-connected-coast

To read details staff reports about this project...

For the SRD’s draft Broadband Strategy, visit https://tinyurl.com/y9qoexcm

Bylaws to establish the Connected Coast service and Loan Authorization Bylaw https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDBoard/Open/BRD/18-Jul-18/20180712-BOARD-Bylaws-321-and-322-Regioanl-Broadband-Infrastructure.PDF

To read the articles of incorporation for the new Connected Coast Network Corporation visit https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDBoard/Open/BRD/18-Jul-18/20180713-Bylaw-No_-332-Strathcona-Connected-Coast-Network-Corp.PDF

Board of directors policy for the Connected Coast Network Corporation https://tinyurl.com/y7wp3rwd

Cortes Hall Tax Service
The second proposed new tax service, after some years of dormancy, is the proposed Cortes hall tax service. Hundreds of Cortes residents requested that the matter of establishing a Cortes hall tax be put to a referendum. Hundreds of others then requested that the question not be put to this form of democratic vote. Regional District staff consulted with the boards of the two Cortes community halls as well as the core group opposing this effort and summarized for the community’s split will. A draft service establishment bylaw was offered by staff which would allow for a maximum of $75,000 to be collected annually either through property value or parcel taxation. Rather than sending this matter to a final vote in conjunction with the fall civic election, given the contention on this matter, the board opted rather to hold a more exploratory non-binding referendum in October. This non-binding referendum, as I understand it, will essentially ask IF you want a definitive vote on this matter at a later time. This is a more cautious two-step approach to gauge public will. The exact non-binding referendum question will be forthcoming in bylaw form at a future SRD board meeting. SRD staff will engage the community further on this matter before the vote. For the recent staff report, please visit https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDBoard/Open/BRD/20-Jun-18/20180615-Cortes-Island-Community-Hall-Service-Initiative.PDF

Cortes Fire Protection
The third proposed new tax service, is at the request of the Cortes Island Fire Fighting Association. They have asked that we create a new service to allow them to offer a new First Responder program to our community. This would allow them to provide life-saving skills to the public more quickly in critical situations until the arrival of the ambulance. A maximum $45,000 tax requisition is being proposed to enable and fund this new effort. Because there has been no public discussion to date about this proposal leaving us with no indication of the level of support it might receive, and for administrative consistency, the Regional Board has opted, like with the proposed hall tax service, to gauge your level of interest in this matter through a non-binding referendum to coincide with the October 20th local government election. The specific ballot question will be decided in bylaw form by the Board shortly, but I expect will essentially ask if you want to go to a binding referendum at a later date. I have asked the Cortes Island Firefighting Association to engage the community further on this matter before the vote and SRD staff will do the same. For the staff report on the matter, https://tinyurl.com/ybtd38et

The forth matter is a service amendment rather than a new service, which also requires your assent. The Cortes Fire Department has asked the Regional District to allow for changes to the existing service they provide to our community. They would like to be formally permitted to respond to fires on wharves, assist the ambulance when needed as well as help with road rescue and vehicle extractions. This requested increased scope of work is not accompanied by a specific associated increased tax request. If you object to this proposal, then we ask that (like the internet service described above) you file your objection through an ‘alternate approval process’ which will be advertised in the fall. This is the process requested by the Fire Department, and although it is problematic as it offers only a voice to those opposed, because it is not a request for new taxation, we believe that it will not be met with much controversy. For the full staff report visit
https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDBoard/Open/BRD/18-Jul-18/20180709-BOARD-CI-Fire-Protection-Service-AmendementsCOMBINED.PDF

Unsightly Premise Regulatory Bylaw
The fifth matter I am trying to bring to you for a vote, is that of an enforceable unsightly premise bylaw. Many more nuisance provisions are in our existing zoning bylaw, and this is the only one proposed to continue in an enforceable form. In reaction to a complaint, the definition of ‘unsightly premise’, as viewed from a public viewpoint, would need to offended against community standards. In the two-step process required for you to consider if you want an unsightly premise regulation, the Regional District board has established a nuisance ‘service’ giving the District the right to regulate in principle. Find it here: https://tinyurl.com/y7mhqccb.

Next staff will bring forward a draft enforceable regulatory bylaw which I hope to bring to you as a referendum question with the fall election for your vote. More as it becomes available.

In gratitude for the honour of this office,

Noba Anderson
Regional Director, Cortes Island
250-935-0320, directorcortesisland.com

Editors Note: Some of the links were not working due to the long SRD URL structure with lots of dashes, I replaced them with shorter URL's.