The main hall roof at Manson’s Hall was in need of repairs but fixed. Voters will be asked to vote on whether to establish a hall tax on the island. Screenshot, Southern Cortes Community Association website

Cortes Island to vote on hall tax idea in fall elections

Non-binding referendum will gauge residents support for idea of tax

Cortes Island residents will decide on a hall tax for the community when they vote during regular local government elections this October.

The results will not be binding but are to provide direction for the Strathcona Regional District on whether to proceed with the tax bylaw in the future.

The issue is not new for Cortes, and as SRD staff indicate, has split the community.

“We received a lot of support for a hall tax and a lot of feeling against the hall tax,” SRD Chief Administrative Officer Dave Leitch told board members at the June 20 meeting.

Some feel the tax is necessary to provide a stable source of revenue for community hall operations. Others question the costs as well as the process of how support has been gathered.

“This is a really stomach-churning one,” Area B Director Noba Anderson, who represents Cortes Island, told the rest of the SRD board. “It’s been before us for nine years now, on and off. As I see it, there are really only two of the four options that are worth our consideration.”

The regional district has identified four options: going to non-binding referendum this fall, which would require a later binding vote if the idea is approved in principle; having a binding referendum this fall; using the alternative approval process (AAP); or taking no action.

The AAP or doing nothing would be the cheapest options but not necessarily solve the question.

“If we choose to do nothing further, it will come back again,” Anderson said.

Concerning the AAP, Anderson said a minority could bring the process to a halt, even if they might not represent the views of the majority of residents. Through this process, a bylaw proceeds unless 10 per cent of electors sign an elector response form opposing a bylaw within a set timeframe.

“The problem with that is that it only empowers the negative and doesn’t ever give voice to the positive,” Anderson said. “I don’t want to go down that road again. That leaves taking something to referendum at the election, either binding or non-binding.”

She had pushed for a binding referendum to settle the issue and reduce the potential times voters go to the polls, but she could not garner enough support among other directors. A majority voted for the non-binding referendum, with only Area A Director Gerald Whalley and Area C Director Jim Abram opposing.

Through the non-binding referendum, voters will give the board direction for the future rather than voting on an actual proposal. If there is enough support, the SRD will go to a binding referendum on the bylaw in 2019.

The 2016 census puts Cortes Island’s population at 1,035. According to a staff report, the SRD has received petitions with 458 signatures in favour of establishing a tax and 232 opposed, as well as 37 letters in favour, including ones from the Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA) and the Whaletown Community Club (WCC), both of which operate facilities and services, and 38 letters in opposition.

Proponents argue current buildings are old and need maintenance, along with a more stable source of revenue than grants or from increased rents, which they fear would mean cancellations of events and programming. The SCCA is asking for a fixed amount of $46,000 a year. The WCC is also asking for it to be eligible for funding if a hall tax is approved. The bylaw proposed would requisition a maximum of $75,000 a year.

Those opposing the idea argue taxes are too high already and question how fair raising revenue either through a parcel tax or by raising the mill rate would be. They have also questioned how the SCCA is managing Manson’s Hall and whether some supporting the tax are eligible voters.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

No unused COVID-19 vaccines are going to waste at the end of… Continue reading

Where urban and natural landscapes meet can be a very interesting place. The Museum at Campbell River and Greenways Land Trust are hosting a talk on Earth Day on that topic. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Where urban and natural meet

Earth Day talk looks at urban biodiversity

Ryan Rasmussen goes on a training run on Quadra Island. Photo supplied.
Quadra Island man to run 160 km to raise funds for alternative cancer care

‘I feel like I need to be in pain to raise the money… I can’t do something that’s easy’ — Ryan Rasmussen

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read