FILE — The Castlegar and District Community Complex’s arena. (File photo)

Area-by-area referendum could veto current Castlegar complex plan

Proposed enhancements to Castlegar’s recreation complex are proceeding to an area-by-area referendum.

Proposed enhancements to Castlegar’s recreation complex are proceeding to an area-by-area referendum, which is not what project proponents were hoping for.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s (RDCK) board of directors voted 12-8 to proceed with an all-area referendum on enhancements to the Castlegar & District Community Complex (CDCC), but as the motion needed two-thirds of the vote to pass, it failed and the board agreed on an area-by-area referendum instead.

An area-by-area vote means that if the referendum fails in any of the participating areas — the City of Castlegar, Area I and Area J — then it fails in its entirety. For an area vote to pass, 50 per cent plus one of voters must approve the referendum question.

Given that the results of the Castlegar & District Recreation Commission’s last survey showed that only 49 per cent of respondents in Area I would support Option B enhancements, proponents for the enhancements will have some work to do if they are to be successful.

Andy Davidoff, director of Area I, was one of the RDCK directors who supported an area-by-area vote and the only director who requested to be recorded as opposed to an all-area vote. (Directors are only counted as being opposed unless they specifically request to be recorded as opposed, in which case their name is listed under opposed in the minutes.)

“I think the reason the board chose that, from what was said by the members of the board, was that an area-by-area vote respects the voice and autonomy of each area and ensures that no area’s vote is marginalized,” said Davidoff.

The Area I director said that he’s heard from constituents that they support the area by area vote. He also said the recreation commission’s public feedback shows support for work being done at the CDCC.

“The rec commission has completed surveys and we’ve also completed a Recreation Master Plan and it’s pretty clear the majority of residents believe we need to do renovations to the complex and it’s getting to the point where work needs to be done,” said Davidoff.

Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff and Area J director Rick Smith supported an all-area referendum.

Sixty-three per cent of Castlegar respondents and 67 per cent of Area J respondents said they would support Option B in the last survey.

“It is what it is and I’m more than willing to do that,” Chernoff said of the area-by-area referendum. “It’s really going to be up to the people and when we started that process, that’s what it’s all about. They asked for these things. We did all those open houses, we did all that consultation.”

“I want to see it and I know that constituents want to see it go ahead to referendum, and hopefully we have a positive outcome,” said Smith. “And saying that we’ve got our work cut out for us to get everyone out to vote from all of the areas — the city, Area I, Area J — and it’ll be up to the voters to determine where we go.”

Chernoff also addressed the fact that the CDCC is subsidized by taxpayers, in that user fees do not cover the costs of operating the facility.

“Without the subsidy of taxation, you would never operate,” he said, pointing to the costs.

Chernoff added that it’s standard for public recreation facilities to be subsidized in B.C.

Option B includes the following:

• Necessary items — demolition of the condemned storage area, acoustic improvements to the arena and additional hockey change rooms; two;

• Arena — a regulation-sized ice sheet, 150 spectator seats, team rooms and a lobby extension to facilitate more leisure skating activities;

• Social hub — a lobby expansion and upgrades, a new reception, a “fireside” room, a warm viewing area to the arena, administration offices and a multipurpose/party room;

• An indoor walking track;

• Pool — new leisure pool with water features, lazy river and beach entry, a change room retrofit, a universal change room expansion and a spray pad.

Potential impact on taxes

The proposal is to borrow up to $32,370,000 to cover the building cost of Option B.

The maximum increase on taxation — based on $2.32 per $100,000 of residential assessment for a $1 million loan with a 25-year term and 3.61 per cent APR — would be $75.10 annually per $100,000 of assessed value for residents of Castlegar, Area J and some residents of Area I.

Residents of Area I with properties from north of the intersection at Loff Road and Highway 3A to Playmor Junction, including Shore Acres and the Glade area, are not paying into the aquatic and fitness centres at the CDCC. If the enhancement proceeds, those residents would start paying into those services as well, which is another $28.40 per $100,000 of assessment.

So in total, those residents would pay up to an additional $103.50 per $100,000 of assessment.

But residents will only pay the maximum increase in the event that the project receives no grants and the tax base does not increase.

“Any grants or anything else, even growth over time — growth in the assessment base, so if there’s new businesses or new residential areas, anything that’s added to the assessment base — brings down the cost to everybody,” explained Jim Crockett, manager of recreation for CDCC.

He said that it’s reasonable to expect that the RDCK would receive grants for the project, if the referendum passes, but couldn’t say how big they might be.

“I know that Nelson has received grants for their centre. There have been a number of other grants around that have been provided, so there’s no reason to think that we would be excluded,” said Crockett.

Looking back at the Nelson Complex expansion

The Nelson & District Community Complex (NDCC) recently underwent some improvements to its Aquatic Centre, but the last time it underwent anything comparable to the enhancements proposed for the CDCC was between 2004 and 2005.

“In 2004-2005, the main expansion was to the arena,” said Joe Chirico, general manager of community services for the RDCK.

The expansion also included the addition of a leisure pool and some change rooms and the expansion of the fitness centre.

Chirico said the expansion to the NDCC was different from the proposed enhancements to the CDCC, as Nelson added a spectator, rather than a participation arena as proposed in Castlegar. The expansion to the Nelson pool was also smaller than what has been proposed for Castlegar. But the expansion of the fitness centre in Nelson is similar in size to what has been proposed in Castlegar.

The NDCC expansion also went to referendum, but it was an overall vote, with residents from Nelson, Area F and a defined portion of Area E participating.

Prior to that, there was an area-by-area referendum in 1994 that failed in one area and a referendum on an Area E and F contribution in 2001 that failed.

“There’s something substantially different about the service areas,” said Chirico. “So Nelson and defined Area E and all of Area F, they all participated in the operation of the pool [and fitness centre]. So what was added to the service at that point was the operation of … the arena. So the defined portion of Area E and the Area F did not participate before in any way in the old arena operations. Those were done by the City of Nelson by themselves until that year.”

In the case of the CDCC, it’s the Aquatic Centre that not all residents are participating in.

“You actually had more people in the Nelson situation not participating, but in a different part of the service,” said Chirico. “Because they were participating in the fitness and the pool, but they weren’t participating in the arena.”

For the NDCC expansion, Chirico said the RDCK was able to get approximately $2 million in grants from the federal and provincial governments.

The regional district was also successful in getting $2 million in grants for the Creston & District Community Complex in 2007 or 2008 and getting $4,597,200 for the NDCC pool renewal project in 2015.

Going back over a decade, it was difficult for Chirico to say what exactly the final project costs were for the NDCC expansion, but in the referendum residents of Nelson, Area F and a defined portion of Area E approved the borrowing of up to $10.3 million for a term not to exceed 30 years and with taxation of the service not exceeding the greater of $1,780,000 or $1.68 per $1,000 of assessed land value.

That vote took place on Oct. 18, 2003.

To show the effects on the RDCK’s recreation taxation, Chirico shared the following information from 2002 to 2006:

• 2002 — $505,213 (taxation on pool and fitness); $282,829 (taxation on recreation service)

• 2003 — $503,043 (taxation on pool and fitness); $298,699 (taxation on recreation service)

• 2004 — $1,780,000

• 2005 — $1,780,000

• 2006 — $1,828,338

That’s a 132 per cent increase in taxation from 2002 to 2006.

The recreation service, which paid for programming and other costs, was combined with everything else following the decision to proceed with the facility expansion at the end of 2003.

Chirico also provided the RDCK recreation budgets for the same period:

• 2002 — $723,349 (pool and fitness); $406,116 (recreation service)

• 2003 — $730,813 (pool and fitness); $385,709 (recreation service)

• 2004 — $2,315,664 (including $156,090 in principal and interest payments)

• 2005 — $2,765,634 (including $676,262 in principal and interest payments)

• 2006 — $3,285,154 (including $723,238 in principal and interest payments)

That’s a 191 per cent increase to the budget from 2002 to 2006.

Chirico explained that the current estimated cost of the CDCC project is based on the conceptual design.

“So a conceptual design, the designers essentially have got a per-foot cost. So right now it’s an estimate of cost,” he said.

Proceeding to a schematic design would allow for a more accurate cost estimate, but to proceed to a schematic design would cost approximately $130,000 and Chirico explained that it doesn’t necessarily make sense to do that before the project has gone to referendum.

If the project is approved through a referendum, then the cost will be revisited as the design proceeds.

“As you’re designing the building, you’re always checking back in with those costs,” said Chirico. “So the more that they do in design, the better costs estimates they’re able to make.”

He added that the design may have to be tweaked to make sure that the project remains within budget.

The final cost also ultimately depends on what the tenders come in at, but Chirico also explained that if the lowest compliant bid comes back too far over budget then the district is under no obligation to proceed with the project.

However, if the lowest compliant bid is not accepted, then the project cannot be re-tendered. It would have to be redesigned to decrease costs.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story stated that an area vote needed 51 per cent to pass. In fact, for an area vote to pass, 50 per cent plus one of voters must approve the referendum question. It also stated the RDCK board of directors voted 12-8 in favour of an area-by-area vote. In fact, the RDCK board of directors voted 12-8 to proceed with an all-area referendum, but as the motion needed two-thirds of the vote to pass, it failed and the board agreed on an area-by-area referendum instead.

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