Safety is worth the investment
The results of the recent Alternative Approval Process to borrow funds to build a new Fire Hall for Cowichan Bay are as follows:
401 eligible property owners submitted valid Owner Response Forms stating their opposition to the borrowing. Under provincial legislation, the AAP is considered to have passed if fewer than 10 per cent of eligible property owners submit Owner Response Forms. For this AAP, 10 per cent of eligible property owners in the area served by the Cowichan Bay Improvement District was 448.
The AAP is therefore considered to have passed and the Board of the Cowichan Bay Improvement District may proceed to arrange approval to borrow the funds and finalize construction arrangements for the new Fire Hall.
- Click here to see the report certifying the results of the AAP.
- Click here for the news release about the AAP results.
- Click here for a report summarizing communications activities and resident feedback during the AAP
The Cowichan Bay Improvement District would like to thank all those property owners who took an interest in this important community process.
The new fire hall is anticipated to cost up to $16 Million, which includes permitting, engineering, total construction, contingency, demolition of the original hall, and interest payments during the construction period. The Improvement District is seeking to borrow this money through the Municipal Finance Authority and repay the loan over 20 years.
Property owners within the area serviced by the Cowichan Bay Volunteer Fire Rescue would pay for the new fire hall annually through property taxes. The new fire hall would cost property owners approximately $43.10 per $100,000 of assessed property value annually over 20 years, beginning when fire hall construction is complete. According to BC Assessment, as of March 31, 2022, the average residential property within the Improvement District is valued at $820,477. Property owners with a home valued at $820,477 would pay approximately $354 annually towards the fire hall ($43.10 x 8.2 = $354).
In order to borrow the funds to build our new Fire Hall, tax payers have the opportunity to oppose the loan through an Alternative Approval Process (AAP). If 10 per cent of the eligible property owners in the area served by Cowichan Bay Fire Department indicate their opposition to the borrowing by returning an opposition form, the AAP does not pass. The number of owner responses required to prevent the Cowichan Bay Improvement District from proceeding is 448.
If you support borrowing funds to build a new Fire Hall, you don’t need to do anything.
Residents are reminded that the existing Cowichan Bay Fire Hall is unable to meet WorkSafe BC requirements, BC Building Code and Fire Code requirements, and industry best practices. Costs are unavoidable if residents want continued fire protection services in the community. If we do not take steps now to build a new fire hall,the existing building might eventually have to be closed due to known risks to workers and volunteers. The longer we wait to build a new hall, the more expensive it will be.
In accordance with the Cowichan Bay Improvement District Letters Patent as amended from time to time, you are eligible to submit an owner response form if you are:
- a Canadian citizen;
- age 18 or older on the day of submission;
- an owner of property in the Cowichan Bay Improvement District, an authorized agent of any board or corporation that owns property in the Cowichan Bay Improvement District, or the legal representative of any person who has died, become insolvent or is incapacitated and is qualified to be registered as a voter in British Columbia.
Only those people who own property in the Cowichan Bay Improvement District may submit an Owner Response Form. No property owner may submit more than one Owner Response Form.
AAP Dates and Forms
The AAP response period will run from June 2 – July 15, 2022. Please review the Official AAP Public Information Package for a summary of the new Fire Hall proposal and AAP process.
Any eligible owner wishing to oppose borrowing for a new Fire Hall must submit an Owner Response Form. The Form can be printed from this website and is available in hard copy between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday (unless staff are responding to an emergency) at Cowichan Bay Fire Hall, 4461 Trans Canada Highway, Cowichan Bay, B.C.
The only Owner Response Form that will be accepted by the Cowichan Bay Improvement District is the one provided by the Improvement District, or an accurate copy of the form.
Signed Owner Response Forms must be received by the Returning Officer by 4:00 p.m. on Friday, July 15, 2022. Signed forms may be submitted:
- In person at the Cowichan Bay Fire Hall;
- By drop-off in the mail slot at the Fire Hall;
- By mail to the Fire Hall; or
- By email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Owner Response Form
- Official AAP Public Information Package
- Household mailout about the AAP and need for a new fire hall (May/June 2022)
- News Release: Investing in a Safer Future – A New Fire Hall for Cowichan Bay (May 3, 2022)
- Newsletter to residents explaining the issues and findings of the citizen advisory committee (January 2021)
Answering your questions:
What is an AAP?
An Alternative Approval Process (AAP) is a way of seeking elector (in this case landowner) approval for a proposal.
In an AAP, landowners are asked to consider the proposal and submit an opposition form only if they are opposed. If 10% or less of eligible landowners submit opposition forms, the AAP passes. If more than 10% of landowners submit opposition forms, the AAP fails.
Why and AAP rather than a referendum or other tool?
There are 3 ways that the Improvement District can approve borrowing of this magnitude: 1) a Referendum, 2) an Alternative Approval Process, or AAP, and 3) by holding a vote at a Special General Meeting of the Board. Because the Improvement District is completely separate and distinct from the Regional District, a referendum question about this borrowing CANNOT be included on the ballot for the 2022 Fall local government elections. Therefore, the Improvement District decided to hold an AAP in recognition that local elections are coming up this Fall and it would be onerous to ask residents to go to the polls twice, AND in recognition that more of a process is warranted than a special general meeting.
The AAP was the middle ground, costing less to run than a Referendum and asking potentially fewer people to take action (those opposed to the borrowing rather than all eligible property owners.
What happens if the AAP fails?
When an AAP fails, this does not mean that the fire hall project cannot proceed. However, it means that the Improvement District will have to consider another process to build the fire hall. Options might include: funding the project slowly over time (making a new build difficult), undertaking a referendum in which all landowners would be required to vote, or holding a vote at a Special General Meeting to which all landowners are invited.
What would $16million pay for (What is the project budget)?
|Construction of new building:||$9.8 Million|
|20% Contingency (this is built-in to insulate against cost increases unrelated to inflation and ideally will not be spent):||~ $1.8 M|
|Technical and professional fees (engineers, architects, environmental, septic, roofing, communications, surveyor, etc):||$1.5 Million|
|Interest payments during construction:||Up to $1 Million|
|Escalation (this is built-in to insulate against inflation and ideally will not be spent):||$773,000|
|Building permit and other permit application fees:||$108,000|
|Relocation of technical and fire equipment (compressor and tanks, industrial washer and dryer, PCs and servers, A/V and radios, etc):||$55,000|
|Various other smaller items combined together:||~ $391,000|
The budget anticipates the maximum cost for loan approval purposes. The Improvement District will make every effort to manage the project effectively and try hard to bring actual costs down to reduce residents’ repayment fees.
In addition, as new residents move to the Improvement District or additional properties are created through development and subdivision, those residents will begin paying into the new fire hall, which could bring costs down for everyone over time.
The Improvement DIstrict knows that additional costs to pay for a new Fire Hall have an impact on property owners. We have done our very best to minimize costs, and ultimately, it is up to property owners to tell us whether they are willing to pay for the new Fire Hall through the AAP process underway.
Note that insurance premiums would increase significantly if the fire department did not exist and that costs are unavoidable if residents want continued fire protection services in the community. The existing building cannot continue to operate with no replacement plan in place.
Who is eligible to participate in this AAP to seek approval to borrow funds to build a new Fire Hall to serve Cowichan Bay and the surrounding area?
This is based on the Cowichan Bay Improvement District Letters Patent, which established the Improvement District in 1967 with the purpose of providing fire protection facilities.
In addition, the following individuals are eligible to participate: an authorized agent of any board or corporation that owns property in the Cowichan Bay Improvement District, or the legal representative of any person who has died, become insolvent or is incapacitated and is qualified to be registered as a voter in British Columbia.
Am I eligible to submit an opposition form if I own property in the Cowichan Bay Improvement District but do not live there?
Yes, you are eligible as long as you live within BC. Anyone over the age of 18 who owns property within the Improvement District and who lives in BC is eligible to submit an opposition form. Eligibility is governed by the Improvement District’s Letter’s Patent, the BC Community Charter, and the Local Government Act.
How many properties are serviced by the Cowichan Bay Improvement District?
What is the total assessed value properties serviced by the Cowichan Bay Improvement District?
How do I know if my property is within the Cowichan Bay Improvement District?
Is there a different funding model that could be used (rather than a 20-year loan)? Could amortization be spread out? Could the Improvement District apply for grants?
The Provincial Government has set a maximum term of 20 years for Improvement District loans, so we are not able to spread the loan out over a longer term.
Improvement Districts are not eligible to apply to the Provincial or Federal governments for grant funding. They may request that a municipality or regional district apply on their behalf, but grant funding is contingent on the Improvement District transfering the relevant asset (in this case, fire hall) to the municipality or regional district or actually converting into a municipal or regional service.
To date, the Cowichan Bay Improvement District has not pursued this option. If residents support borrowing for a new fire hall through the Alternative Approval Process (AAP), we will explore the possibility of CVRD making a grant application on our behalf over the next year or two while the project permitting and construction plans are being finalized.
However, residents should be aware that while conversion to a regional service might open the door to obtaining grant funding, it would come with other costs (conversion process, costs of applying for grants, CVRD administrative costs, etc) and could ultimately delay completion of a new fire hall.
If property owners within the Cowichan Bay Improvement District do not support borrowing for a new fire hall as part of the ongoing Alternative Approval Process, the Improvement District Board will embark upon an important conversation about next steps and the future of the Improvement District.
What are the steps in an AAP to seek approval to borrow funds for a new Fire Hall?
The Local Government Act and Community Charter govern the legally required aspects of an AAP. Requirements include:
- Approval from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to undertake an AAP process
- Distribution of information to eligible landowners
- Statutory notices about the AAP (published in newspaper for 2 weeks prior to AAP response period)
- A minimum 31-day AAP response period
- Counting of any opposition forms and declaration of AAP result
How have residents been informed about the AAP to approve borrowing the funds for a new Fire Hall?
On March 9, 2022, the Improvement District board of trustees passed a motion committing to “…distribute comprehensive information to landowners in advance so that landowners are informed about the need for a new fire hall, options that have been explored, tax implications, and process timelines.”
The Improvement District has made significant efforts to communicate with residents over the last few years leading to this point. The Improvement District has:
- Mobilized a citizen advisory committee to explore fire hall planning (2020-2021)
- Sent a newsletter update to residents explaining the issues and findings of the citizen advisory committee (January 2021)
- Focused heavily on community information leading up to the AAP, including a dedicated project webpage, posters and signage around the community, a detailed household mailout in late May/early June 2022, a community open house on June 11, and notices/advertisements in various local newspapers.
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