A survey being circulated by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District asks West Coasters what they think about a potential ice rink. (www.surveymonkey.com/r/ACRD)

Tofino and Ucluelet consider potential ice rink facility five years after referendum

“We just want to make sure we’re doing the best we can with the limited dollars that people have.”

The West Coast Multiplex Society is hoping to celebrate the fifth anniversary of its successful referendum by renewing its vows with West Coasters.

Five years after the West Coast voted on Nov. 24, 2012, to cover the annual operating costs of a multiplex facility through property taxation, a survey is being circulated by the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District that’s asking locals if they’d like to reconsider. The survey is available here.

The ACRD is distributing a West Coast Multiplex survey—available here—both online and in the mail, that lays out interior and exterior designs as well as anticipated costs for phase one of the project, an ice rink. Phase two, a swimming pool, is not present in the survey.

The rink, a proposed full-sized ice-hockey sheet that could be covered to provide space for sports, community events or concerts, would be built next to Long Beach Airport and cost between $14 million to $18 million to construct, according to the survey.

Construction costs are expected to be paid for through donations and grants, but the 2012 referendum allows up to $450,000 of the facility’s annual operating costs to come from property taxes. That’s roughly 19 to 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, according to the survey, which notes a $500,000 property would see an annual property tax increase of about $93-$128.

The survey, and the tabulation of its responses, is expected to cost the ACRD roughly $5,000 and its results will be released in December, according to the regional district’s Chief Administrative Officer Doug Holmes.

Holmes explained that 2012’s referendum gave the ACRD’s board of directors legal permission to raise taxes to cover a multiplex’s operational costs and that there’s no impediment to proceeding, as long as the West Coast communities still want to proceed.

“We can. The question is whether we should,” Holmes told the Westerly News. “What the referendum did was it gave the board the legal authority to proceed. That doesn’t mean it has to proceed. It just has the legal authority to do so.”

Tofino mayor Josie Osborne said it’s important to make sure everyone’s on the same page with regards to spending their tax dollars to operate a multiplex.

“This is an opportunity for the ACRD to do a public opinion survey to see: is there still as much support as there was? Is there more? Is there less? Should we move ahead with the project?,” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone is incredibly supportive of creating better recreation opportunities for the community. We just want to make sure that we’re doing the best we can with the limited dollars that people have.”

She added some concerns have been raised over whether referendum voters were clear on what they were voting for in 2012 and that some locals have expressed confusion over the West Coast Multiplex Society’s phased approach, which would see an ice rink built first and a swimming pool second.

“Consistent feedback over the last six years has been, ‘I thought it was this or I thought it was that and the regional district thought it was important to go back out to the residents and property owners to say ‘OK, this is exactly what we’re proposing. We’re proposing an ice rink facility. Do you still support it?” Osborne said. “It’s extremely important that we hear back from the biggest percentage of residents and property owners that we can so that we can feel confident in the survey results…Because, some really big decisions are going to be made, in part, as a result of this survey.”

West Coast Multiplex Society Chair Samantha Hackett hopes the survey produces positive responses that build momentum for the project and help launch fundraising efforts for the facility’s construction.

“This hopefully gets everybody super stoked and talking about it. A successful survey means we can hit the ground running with fundraising and that we don’t have to go back to the drawing board,” she said. “We don’t want to spend another five years planning. We want to fundraise and we want to get this building built. A successful survey means we can start that right away.”

She said the society is confident the survey’s feedback will show as much support as 2012’s referendum, which passed in a 679-395 vote, but added plans could be tweaked based on the feedback received.

“The society is hoping and anticipating that there’s more support for the project because of all the work that’s been done and just how close we are with the project,” she said. “We know that the support is there for the intention, but maybe we have to change some of the specifics.”

She added that, “if everything lines up perfectly,” construction on the rink could potentially start in 2018, but added that, “Realistically, we’re probably breaking ground in 2019.”

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