As you will read in the lines below, the proposed hall service tax continues to be a contentious subject. At this time, I am still supportive of taking this issue to referendum in the fall for your vote. I do not know of a more democratic way of gauging opinion than directly asking for it. However, I am hearing from the organizers of the opposition that more community discussion is needed – so I am asking how? As many of you, I continue to be troubled by the way this issue is affecting our small community. I have responded to every email and phone call I have received on this issue, and have done my best to listen to your input and represent what I consider to be the majority and the best path forward. This is neither easy nor always clear. I submit the following as the beginning of the next step in community consultation on this matter. I am speaking with supporters, opponents and SCCA board members and asking for input on how to best proceed. I will update this soon and welcome your input.
At last week’s Strathcona Regional District’s committee of the whole (a committee comprised of the full 13 member SRD board which makes recommendations to the board) approximately 130 letters (mostly form letters) were received from Cortes Islanders opposing the hall service tax and two in-person presentations were made also in opposition. At the same meeting, and with my support, the following motion was passed – although not unanimously: THAT the Committee recommend that Bylaw No. 75 be given first and second readings and submitted for additional community consultation.
Bylaw No. 75, attached to this article along with the associated staff report on the matter, is the draft 2nd round of the Cortes Island Community Hall Service. If it passes 3 readings as presented it would go to referendum in November for your vote. It proposes to create an island-wide service including all of Cortes, with a maximum requisition of $79,000 to be collected via a parcel tax amounting to no more than $85 per parcel per year. It proposes that “the Regional District may provide financial assistance to any public organization for operating and maintaining community hall facilities including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, constructing, enlarging and improving such facilities.” This bylaw and all letters received can be found in the minutes of last week’s meeting at http://srdws.strathconard.ca/section_rdb/minutes.asp?id=2754&collection=6&AgendaType=2&MeetingDate=7/14/2010&MeetingType=41 On the issue of foreshore leases…
The SRD board’s previous direction was to include a proviso that foreshore leases (aquaculture leases, docks etc.) be exempt from the proposed tax. The attached staff report says, “If the board wishes to provide tax relief to foreshore properties it could consider doing so when it constructs its parcel tax imposition bylaw. This would allow the board to apply a lower tax rate to certain types of real property (ie. foreshore properties) based on distinct characteristics applicable to those parcels. However, it is important to note that a bylaw to impose parcel taxes cannot be adopted until after the service bylaw has been adopted…” This means that you would not have assurance from the SRD board about the foreshore lease tax regime before going to the polls. Given that this is a less than ideal situation, at committee I proposed an amendment that “the service area for the Cortes Island Community Hall Service shall include all lands above the natural boundaries of the marine environment of Electoral Area B." This would exclude all foreshore leases right from the outset and there would be assurance on the matter prior to voting. This amendment was defeated. There are still three votes on this matter before it goes to referendum – if indeed it gets that far - and ample time for amendments depending on what the board hears from you either on foreshore leases or any other matter on this issue.
If you have not yet written and want your voice to be heard by the board, please address correspondence to “The Strathcona Regional District Board” and send it to administrationstrathconard.ca
Noba Anderson, Regional Director