The recreation referendum on June 25 is a historic opportunity for the Sunshine Coast.
Firstly, it's an opportunity to build much-needed facilities in Gibsons and Sechelt. For years, citizens have been working for a swimming pool in Sechelt and an ice rink in Gibsons, as well as the other amenities the proposed new buildings would offer. The benefits are obvious to anyone who has visited the excellent recreation facilities in Nanaimo, Powell River or Squamish: they promote fun, health and community spirit as well as attracting visitors, new residents and businesses.
As well, this is an opportunity for Sunshine Coast citizens to put divisive, "me-first" regional bickering in the past and pull together for the common good. Under this recreation proposal, everyone pays (with the exception of Pender Harbour and the islands, which were excluded because of their distance from the recreation facilities) and everyone benefits.
Much thought and negotiation went into crafting the details of this plan to make it as fair as possible. The inclusion of the two existing sports facilities, the Sunshine Coast Arena and the Gibsons Pool, is a key aspect of the deal. If the referendum passes, those older facilities will be on a much stronger footing, funded by the entire region rather than just a portion of their users, and managed in coordination, rather than competition, with the new pool and rink.
The innovative tax structure is another important departure from past recreation initiatives. A higher property tax bill is, of course, a big reason to vote "no," especially to those, such as waterfront property owners, who have already been hit with tax hikes from rising assessments in recent years.
The proposed recreation tax does a lot to address that concern. Every property owner would pay the same flat parcel tax. The second part of the tax would be calculated based on the value of improvements, excluding the value of the land. That eases the tax burden for someone who owns an old, modest cottage on land that has zoomed in value.
Past recreation referendums have failed after very close votes. But the issue hasn't gone away, because there is a strong public desire to build more sports facilities. This referendum is our best shot at achieving that goal in a fair and affordable manner.
Please vote "yes" on June 25.