Skip to content

Recreation plan costly but fair

With one week to go before the recreation referendum, I'd like to take one last shot at convincing people to vote "yes.

With one week to go before the recreation referendum, I'd like to take one last shot at convincing people to vote "yes."

There is a very active and well-organized "yes" campaign that has been publicizing all the positive reasons to vote for these facilities, so I won't go over that ground again. Instead, I'd like to address some of the arguments on the "no" side.The biggest reason why people have voted down past referendums is simple and very understandable: they don't want to pay more tax.

I don't like to pay more tax either. But I'll be voting "yes" on June 25 because I'm convinced that this is worth paying for.The cost is certainly high: more than $19 million. I'm very disappointed that the Sunshine Coast missed the opportunity to build a Sechelt pool and Gibsons arena five or 10 years ago, when construction costs were much lower. We could have these facilities in use right now, at a lower cost to property taxpayers.

But on the plus side, those past, failed referendums have inspired community groups and local politicians to look at what was wrong with the past proposals and to improve on them. This time around, there are major improvements both to the facilities themselves and to the tax scheme that will pay for them.

The thorny questions of where to build has been settled: the pool will be next to the Sechelt library and the arena/community centre will be in upper Gibsons at Brothers Park. I think the choice to put both facilities in busy commercial districts, on existing bus routes and near schools and seniors' housing, is a wise one. The proponents of a "central" recreation complex made their voices heard, but ultimately it is more convenient for more people to have facilities downtown.

The complaints of taxpayers have been heard, and politicians have crafted a tax that attempts, with considerable success, to be fair to everyone. At first I was skeptical of this more complex tax scheme, which is partially a flat parcel tax and partially a tax on the value of buildings (not the land). But the continued skyrocketing of land values, particularly for waterfront property, has convinced me that this is a more even-handed scheme than the traditional assessment-based tax. Waterfront property owners will not be penalized. Instead, cottage owners will pay a cottage-sized tax, and mansion owners will pay a mansion-sized tax.

I am sorry that Pender Harbour and the islands will not share in the cost. They were excluded from the referendum based on the argument that people should not be taxed for facilities they will not use. But I'm sure many people from those areas will use the new facilities, despite the distance. And in general, I think everyone should share in paying for public amenities, not just the users. For example, we all pay taxes for the docks that are primarily used by island residents.

But those quibbles aside, this is a pretty fair tax scheme and a huge improvement on the current system.

Right now, Sechelt taxpayers carry the entire burden for the Sunshine Coast Arena, and Gibsons, Elphinstone, West Howe Sound and Roberts Creek share the cost for the Gibsons pool. I, living in Halfmoon Bay, pay for neither one. I don't think that's fair, and I want to pay my share. If we all pitch in, the cost will not be overwhelming for any one of us.