Contentious debate on RDN parks money

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek questions the fairness of increases

The Regional District of Nanaimo is looking to increase their parks and trails purchasing budget, but there was some opposition at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

The RDN’s 2016 to 2020 financial plan was adopted at the March 22 meeting, including a gradual doubling of a parcel tax targeted to acquisition of land for parks and trails.

A $10 parcel tax was established a few years ago, which has successfully helped established parks throughout the region like Moorecroft in Nanoose Bay.

But Teunis Westbroek, Qualicum Beach representative to the regional board, led the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, questioning the plan to increase the parcel tax a dollar a year from it’s current $14 to $20.

“This is a lot of money, I don’t know how Nanaimo can approve this without having a good debate,” Westbroek said of the final amount which he said would add around $700,000 to Nanaimo’s annual tax bill and about $70,000 for Qualicum Beach.

“I don’t think that’s really fair. I think we need a regional services review,” he said before the vote, which passed with Westbroek, Area G director Joe Stanhope and the Nanaimo representatives voting against it.

“I was in favour of the parcel tax to acquire parks,” Westbroek said later, saying more parks is a great way to help protect the environment and people’s quality of life, suggesting proposed parks in areas like Hamilton Marsh and The Notch in Nanoose Bay would be great additions, “but we have to make sure we’re getting a fair deal.”

Westbroek later proposed a motion to initiate the review which he said was last done in 2011.

“The primary objective of the regional services review is to make sure the municipal governments pay an equitable and fair portion of the overall costs of the benefits they receive,” he said, giving examples like rural residents using Qualicum Beach sports fields, while Qualicum Beach residents use regional parks.

He said the last review addressed things like the water service costs between Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo, ice rink and swimming pool fees and use of the Qualicum Beach Airport.

Staff will bring a report to the board on starting the review, which Westbroek asked for sometime between the securing of a permanent chief administrative officer and next year’s budget process.

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