Nanoose Bay residents are pooling their efforts in an attempt to convince the Ministry of Municipal Affairs not to approve a bylaw amendment that will require them to be taxed to help pay for the operations and maintenance of Ravensong Aquatic Centre in Qualicum Beach.
Reginal District of Nanaimo Area E residents have not paid for the pool service since it was built in 1995.
Area director Bob Rogers, who argued against the amendment bylaw the RDN board endorsed on Jan. 11 and was forwarded to the Inspector of Municipalities for approval, has also expressed his opposition to the ministry.
In a letter Rogers sent on Jan. 31 to the inspector, he highlighted the RDN’s failure to establish an electoral approval voter assent opportunity for residents and property owners to provide collective consent.
With Ravensong set to undergo a $20-million upgrade, Rogers explained Area E was a non-participant in the decision-making process but will be expected to contribute to the cost starting this year if the ministry endorses the amendment bylaw.
The RDN decision Rogers pointed out is “neither fair nor reasonable.”
The Northwest Nanoose Residents Association is also sending a letter to the ministry to protest what they deemed an undemocratic process.
NNRA member Neil Watson, who was involved in the committee when the pool was being established in 1991, indicated Area E was not included in the service when Qualicum Beach was selected as the site of the aquatic centre. The geographic location of the pool, Watson said, was considered to be too far for Area E residents to benefit from. Instead, a 20 per cent premium was imposed on Area E users of the pool but that was eventually scrapped.
RDN statistics showed in 2015 Area E represents less than four per cent of the total pool usage. One of the main reasons, Watson explained, is due to the availability of three private pools that are open to the public on a fee for usage basis.
“They service the needs of Area E,” said Watson. “In short, Area E doesn’t need another swimming pool.”
Watson said Ravensong should just continue charging Area E residents a premium, rather than requiring them to pay for an asset they did not support from the start.
Watson also pointed out with the City of Parksville working on developing its own swimming pool, Area E residents are likely to be part of that initiative.
“The City of Parksville is wringing their hands waiting for this to pass because as soon as they announced their new pool proposal the precedent will now be set for Area E to participate,” said Watson. “And you know what? Actually it makes more sense for Area E than Qualicum.”