This newsletter has gone out to all Cortes mailboxes in printed form. The attached PDF document at the bottom of the page is the formatted version that was mailed out. Due to its length, the text version here is broken into two sections for www.cortesisland.com. See the next posting for the final articles.Newsletter Contents:Whaletown Commons
Official Community Plan Update
2011 Regional District Budget
Cortes Governance & Community Boards
First Nations Relations: my learning
Cortes Wildfire Protection Plan
Recycling Centre Building
Ferry Advisory Committee
I am well into the third year of my 3 year term as your elected representative to the Strathcona Regional District board. Please read on for updates on many issues. Whaletown Commons
The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) made a purchase offer of $583,000 and Island Timberlands (I.T.) countered with $1,053,000 + HST. The SRD has declined and made the file public for community consideration. What now?? The numbers:
• BC Assessment Value, July 1, 2009: $35,400
(classified as Private Managed Forest Land)
• Property Taxes: $386.57
• Strathcona Regional District’s appraisal value, March 11, 2010: land value at $323,000 + timber value at $260,000 = $583,000
• Island Timberlands valuation: land value at $555,000 + timber value at $498,000 + $1,053,000 + HST
In June 2009, the SRD board instructed staff to enter into negotiations with I.T. to acquire the Whaletown Commons for park/community use. In January 2010, the board approved funds to pay for land and timber appraisal fees. An offer of $583,000 (the full amount of the appraised value) was made by the SRD in May 2010, with Island Timberlands responding in August with a counter offer of $1,053,000. On March 24th, 2011, after months of hoping that there was a way of closing that price gap, the SRD board voted to decline I.T.’s offer.
Best practices indicate that government should not pay much more than assessed value with public tax funds. The file is now in the public realm, and negotiations are off until/unless something changes.
For those that do not personally know the Commons, it is a 69 acre piece of land beside and behind the Whaletown Fire Hall containing a gorgeous gully, fish-bearing stream and a trail network connecting Gorge Harbour, Jocelyn and Carrington Bay roads. This land is well loved and regularly used by the neighbourhood and often enjoyed by visitors. The Whaletown Commons Society, with a membership of 272, has been formally fundraising and advocating for the purchase of this land for both ecological protection and community use since the 1990s.The Society requested that the SRD assume land purchase negotiations and to that end, three consecutive Regional Directors have made this acquisition a priority and have been putting funds into reserve for parkland acquisition. We now have $446,838 in SRD parks reserve, most of which could be contributed to a park purchase. The Whaletown Commons Society has additional funds to put toward the purchase, for a current total of over $500,000. For the first time, we had enough funds to back a real purchase offer. We offered the full assessed value.
In a letter dated March 10th, 2011 from Island Timberlands to the SRD, it states: “I confirm that this price ($1,053,000 + HST) is valid for a 3 month period from the date of this letter. We remain committed to closing this sale, and I look forward to your response in the very near future.” In the accompanying email from the same day, Christopher Dawes from I.T.’s real estate division writes: “The timber harvest team are very keen to gain access to this parcel of land, especially in light of the much improved timber values applicable today. I appreciate that the community wishes to purchase both land and timber, however, the covenant does allow for a fair degree to be retained, and if we harvest the lands prior to transfer, it would be at a land only value, maybe worth considering if community appetite does not match the ability to fund?” In a telephone conversation I had with Mr. Dawes in March, he stated that I.T. was not in the practice of purchasing ‘social license’ and that they found government assessments across the board to be very low.
I am following up with Mr. Dawes on his offer to attend a community meeting to further discuss the purchase of the Whaletown Commons. If a suitable date can be found, the Whaletown Commons Society will coordinate that meeting and advise the community accordingly. Stay tuned.
Find all Cortes Regional Director postings at www.cortesisland.com
- Special Sections Tab - Regional Director’s PageOfficial Community Plan Update
After one and a half years of gathering community input, the first DRAFT of the revised Cortes Official Community Plan was released for your review and comment in the third week of February. The consultant (Focus) took your collective content, put it into policy language and reflected it back to you. I, nor the OCP steering committee, had seen this draft before it was released. Like most of you, we too were quite disappointed with some key mapping and policy elements as well as the overall untidiness of the product. The land-use designation map has been totally scrapped! We are starting fresh using the old OCP map as a base. However, the real value in what we do have so far is a year and a half of documented community input in the form of individual intended direction. Ideas received from the community were converted into policy, some very innovative, and are reflected in this first draft. What it does not yet reflect is community consensus or majority will. What we now need to do is take control of the document and edit it down. I am delighted and emboldened by some of your excellent ideas, vision and some of the draft policy it reflects.
Next steps and anticipated timeline:April
• ‘Focus’ will integrate the comment received on the first draft, clean up redundancies and errors and provide DRAFT #2 to the Regional District and the OCP steering committee.
• The Regional District and OCP steering committee will edit and proof Draft #2 and prepare it for release to the Cortes community.
• Klahoose First Nation will be formally consulted.
• Cortes will receive Draft #2 for review, both electronically and in printed form. Late April through June as needed
• We will host a series of community editing sessions where you will be invited to collectively edit, section by section, until we get to a place that is reflective of majority will.
This is very similar to the process that was undertaken during the last OCP review which concluded in 1995. At that time, a consultant was hired to gather community input and deliver to Cortes a working draft, after which time the community work-shopped it, section by section, until we had a product that was supported by the majority of those in attendance. This is what we will do again. My commitment to you: I will not support the revised OCP going to the SRD board for consideration or to public hearing until I think we have achieved the best product that we can reasonably achieve. My request of you: That we do our best to deliver a good draft by the end of June, and that we do so with an open and curious mind. Review the Draft OCP at www.cortescommunityplan.ca
Have input? Contact Russ Hotsenpiller at the SRD 830-6703 rhotsenpillerstrathconard.ca 2011 Regional District Budget
The Strathcona Regional District 2011 budget is now complete. This year, I wanted to be more proactively transparent with you about the budget. To that end I held an open community meeting in the fall at the beginning of the 2011 budget process, and am now reporting out with some detail.
I have been involved now in three SRD budget cycles (2009-2011) with relatively stable overall budget and mill rates (rate per $1,000 assessed property value). Here are the numbers: 2008 = $530,526 & 1.6746 per $1,000; 2009 = $543,156 & 1.7200 per $1,000; 2010 = 565,155 & 1.8949 per $1,000; 2011 = $527,084 & 1.8186 per $1,000*. The average Cortes property valued at $352,000 in 2011 will pay $640 in property taxes to support SRD services (see below for a full list).
The Strathcona Regional District derives most of its funds through property taxes, with some funds coming from senior government grants, service fees (ex. garbage collection on Cortes), application fees (ex. rezoning applications), and user fees (ex. admittance to Strathcona Gardens recreation complex). We provide many services throughout the District which includes Campbell River, Sayward, Tahsis, Zeballos, Gold River, Kyuquot/Nootka, north Toba, Bute & the Discovery Islands including Quadra and Cortes. The main services to Cortes include:
• Planning (official community plans, land & water zoning, green-house gas reduction planning, etc)
• Parks (Siskin Lane trails, Kwa’as Park, Carrington, beach access trails, soon to be Hank’s Beach)
• Emergency Preparedness (planning for fire, flood, earthquake, and other natural disasters)
• Fire Protection (we contract with the Cortes Fire Department for our fire service)
• Solid Waste (garbage transport off island and dumping fees and a small portion of the Cortes recycling centre operations)
• Grant-In-Aid (supporting local not-for-profit initiatives of benefit to the community at large)
• Administration (some SRD staff, accounting, overhead, etc)
• Electoral Area Expenditures (Regional Director pay, constituency expenses, training, elections)
We also have an inactive and unfunded ‘Heritage Conservation’ service and a ‘Liquid Waste’ (sewer/septic) research service that could be used if and when there is future need. We are also part of a regional planning service that is beginning some environmental planning work, largely focused on our climate change responsibilities. We also pay into the regional 911 answering service & Search and Rescue. Note: I do not have any input into the other line items on your tax bill such as Library, School, and Police.
Although average land assessments in the SRD increased slightly, on Cortes they are down by 4%.
The overall impact to the 2011 financial plan is a decrease of 9.9% in operational expense, and a decrease of 5.9% in total 2011 property tax requisitions. The total SRD 2011 budget is just over $11.2 million, 40% of which goes to pay for the Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex in Campbell River, to which Cortes does not contribute financially. Of that, the SRD will be taxing a total of $527,000 from Cortes in 2011.
• $169,000 of that goes to Cortes Fire Protection
• $135,000 pays for our parks system ($36,000 of which went into parks acquisition reserve, bringing our total reserves that could go toward park purchase up to almost $450,000)
• $77,000 supports your Cortes land-use planning
• $75,000 deals with our recycling and garbage
• $56,000 covers all administration and electoral area funds, and
• $25,000 will fund this year’s Grant-In-Aid budget
I also sit on two ‘Combined Boards’ (which includes both the Strathcona and the Comox Valley Regional Districts). These budgets include:
• Solid Waste (the entire regional recycling & garbage system) has a budget of $6.5 million. Funds for this service are paid by tipping fees, some of which comes from general taxation and some of it from direct fees paid for dumping, largely from commercial and industrial accounts. Cortes will pay $75,000 of this in 2011 through taxation.
• Hospital Board (we provide 40% of hospital funding which covers buildings and equipment) has a 2011 budget of $14.8 million, $10.5 million of which goes directly into reserves to build the two new hospitals in the region – one in Courtenay and one in Campbell River. $224,502 of that will come from Cortes. The hospital tax rate has been increasing each year recently so that we can put a greater down payment on the new hospitals and incur less taxation in the long-run as we will be paying less in interest to complete the building.
*The actual tax rate shown on your tax notice includes the additional 5.25% Provincial collection fee, as well as any adjustments resulting from changes in assessed values either from prior year or between the time we calculated this rate and the issuing of the tax notice.For full budget details visit www.strathconard.ca & www.comoxvalleyrd.caCortes Governance & Community Boards(re-worked from my December 2010 article)
Although I am your representative to local government, I would suggest that our Cortes governance model is intricate and comprised of many organizations, committees, groups and boards, all of whom strive to serve the wellbeing of Cortes. I can count 30 and am sure I am missing some. If each board has 6 members, that’s over 160 people or 15% of our year-round population that sits on a board!Some believe these are private clubs, serving only their memberships and should be supported exclusively by those memberships. I offer the thought, however, that collectively they form a huge part of our island governance, serving indeed the whole community. Some of these groups provide services that in other situations would be provided and/or funded by government: medical centre, docks, halls, fire service, radio, etc. Other groups compliment that work and make our island a rich and well serviced place to live.
Last fall’s ‘facilitating community dialogue’ meeting explored the roles of boards, membership, the community and the interplay there between. I am keenly interested in how to support this work and the boards that comprise their volunteer base.
Since December I have hosted three meetings with many reps from Cortes non-profits to discuss options for inter-organizational collaboration. What most strikes me is that these organizations who serve the community have very little structured support for the work they do. Can this be assisted through collective board development, meeting facilitation, communications, fundraising, other? The Regional District’s Grant-In-Aid fund is a modest way of providing support, and I am seeking ways of leveraging those few funds to best assist the work of local initiatives. After the April 2nd regular Grant-In-Aid application intake, I will be seeking a couple of inter-organizational applications for projects that strive to support collaborative good Cortes governance. On a board? Interested and not yet in the loop? Please contact me.
I want to extend a huge gratitude to those who serve on community boards and the like. Here are the ones I have remembered so far: Advisory Planning Commission, Bee Islets, Channel Rock, Cortes Carbon Solutions, Cortes Community Health Association, Cortes Community Radio Society, Cortes Harbour Authority, Cortes Housing Initiative, Cortes Island Literacy Now, Cortes Island Museum and Archives Society, Cortes Island Potters Guild, Cortes Island Seniors Society, Cortes Island Shellfish Growers Association, Cortes Island Volunteer Firefighting Association, Cortes Natural Food Co-op, Cortes Real Youth, Emergency Social Services Team, Friends Of Cortes Island, Hollyhock, Island Women, Linnaea Farm Society, The Playschool, Old Schoolhouse Gallery, Parent’s Advisory Committee, Southern Cortes Community Association, Whaletown Commons Society, Whaletown Community Club, Whaletown Institute, WiFi Society, and Wild We Stand.(The last few articles of this newsletter are in the next posting. The full newsletter was too long to include in one posting here.)