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Mixed reviews on Director Fraser's tax grab for Shawnigan basin society

Results pending for Shawnigan water group funding bylaw

by Peter Rusland - Cowichan News Leader Pictorial 
posted Jan 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM— updated Jan 7, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Results of a public vote to give $50,000 in annual tax money to the Shawnigan Basin Society won't be known until Wednesday.

Cowichan Valley Regional District staff said the ballot tally of the alternative approval process — which closed Jan. 6 — could be posted on the CVRD's website Wednesday by about 3 p.m.


Results will be publicly reported to the board during its Jan. 8 meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Under the AAP, at least 10% (570) of eligible Shawnigan-area voters had to file official opposition forms to force a referendum on a new tax put forth by Shawnigan Lake Director Bruce Fraser.

If the AAP fails, the bylaw will likely pass.

Maximum cost to Shawnigan Lake homeowners would be about $2.98 a year per $100,000 of assessed residential property value.

Whatever the outcome, south Cowichan resident Blaise Salmon — who recently resigned from the basin society — opposes the AAP process, and handing the fledgling society taxpayers' money every year to — among other things — do studies about Shawnigan's watershed.

"The AAP process is a flawed," he said. "It relies on keeping people in the dark; people don't find out about the AAP in time. This type of decision should go to refer at the same time as the (Nov. 15) civic election."

Fraser and society president David Hutchinson were unavailable for comment by press time.

Salmon said he believed the small, year-old society "isn't ready for annual funding."

"I don't think they've thought it through.

"One issue I had with the basin society is they signed a $90,000 consultants contract six weeks ago without any money in the bank," he said, suggesting the society needed more contract bids.

"By far the most influential person is Director Fraser. He conceived of the AAP, it was his proposal."

"I made my dissenting voice heard. It was clear I was in the minority and Director Fraser had the strongest voice by far."

Salmon is also gauging public support for the proposed tax.

"Most people I've talked to aren't in favour (of the tax hike) once they understand what it's about, but the AAP has a huge advantage with 10% needed to actually fill out the form," Salmon said.

He is opposed to the funding despite supporting the society's goals of saving Shawnigan area's ecology — in the face of proposed dumping and treating of five million tonnes of fuel-laced soil near Shawnigan Lake.

"I don't think the means justify the ends. How many existing overlapping studies are gathering dust in our official community plans?" Salmon asked.

CVRD bylaw 3737 covers the Shawnigan Basin Society Annual Financial Contribution.

If adopted, the bylaw will authorize the CVRD to establish an annual financial contribution to the society of up to $50,000 per year, or an amount equal to the amount that could be raised by a property value tax of $0.0323 per $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements within the service area.

"The purpose of the financial contribution is to assist the Shawnigan Basin Society with costs associated with watershed management and public safety issues within the Shawnigan and upper Koksilah Basins," the proposed bylaw reads.

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