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Feasibility plan for Parksville pool sunk due to lack of full support

Regional District of Nanaimo board abandons study
Ravensong Aquatic Centre. (PQB News photo)

The plan to conduct a feasibility study on establishing a swimming pool in Parksville has now been scrapped.

The Regional District of Nanaimo board endorsed resolutions last December 2023 to establish a bylaw for the Parksville Pool Feasibility Service that also includes requisitioning $170,000 for the study in the 2024 to 2028 financial plan.

Since then, RDN staff has sent letters to the City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum Beach and Electoral Areas E, F, G and H, seeking their consent to allow the proposed bylaw to be enacted. However, Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) declined to endorse the plan.

Under the Local Government Act, all participating areas must provide consent to the proposed bylaw in order to proceed. Staff provided four recommendations to the board, at its regular meeting on Jan. 30. The board chose the option to abandon the feasibility study. The vote was unanimous.

Prior to voting, the board heard longtime resident in Area F, David Karras, speak against the feasibility bylaw citing serious concerns about increasing taxes and the impact it has on residents. He pointed out some residents on a fixed income are just barely getting by and struggling to pay their taxes.

“They’re now resorting to reversed mortgages to pay their taxes,” said Karras. “They’re going to payday loans and they are going to home equity loans. They’re deferring their taxes because they can’t afford their taxes. And they’re also paying their taxes with their credit cards.”

Karras questioned the rationale behind building an infrastructure he believes will increase the tax burden on residents.

He pointed out Parksville brought forward numerous plans to build a pool and also held a referendum in 1972 but it failed to more forward.

“If it was denied in a referendum back in 1972, what has changed?” Karras asked. “How do we think that it is going to be accepted by the taxpayers to build a $100-million swimming pool in Parksville? I’m not a betting man but it’s going to be rejected. And we’re going to spend $200,000-plus on a survey and study?”

RDN staff also provided other options that include limiting the bylaw to only those willing to be part of service, obtaining elector approval and also making the service area bylaw to include the entire regional district.

Nanaimo mayor Leonard Krog spoke against building a new pool. He cited the impact it will have on the water supply as one of the major concerns.

READ MORE: A swimming pool every 2 seconds: Elk Falls roars at highest flows in 8 years

“I philosophically have some difficulty with the concept that we continue to build facilities which I would really say are maybe nice to have for some folks but are certainly not a need,” said Krog. “So, I’m not prepared to support anything that requires taxation.”

He added if Parksville residents wish to build a pool, the city should undertake the project on its own.

Area F director Leanne Salter agreed with Krog’s view. She believes another feasibility study will be a waste of time and money as Parksville has already done studies in the past that have failed to materialize. Salter prefers investing the money on upgrading the Ravensong Aquatic Centre in Qualicum Beach.

“That pool needs work and we were in the middle of doing that work when all this came at us,” said Salter. “At the time, we had with that pool, agreed to $10 million to do some upgrades in Qualicum. It sounded a lot of money to me at the time. Now I think, please let’s just go right back there. $10 million works for me. I’ll put my hand up.”

Qualicum Beach director and mayor Teunis Westbroek said the Ravensong pool upgrade has been delayed and is costing more money. He indicated the initial cost was $10 million but was put aside because of Parksville’s plan to build their own pool. And now the price has more than doubled, he said.

“But it is still a better choice than spending $120 million,” said Westbroek.

Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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