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Summerland voters reject pool proposal

58% of ballots cast were not in favour of $50M project
The referendum on the Summerland Recreation Centre was held on Nov. 4. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)

With a difference of 700 votes, Summerland residents made it clear that there was no appetite for spending millions on a proposed replacement for the Summerland Aquatic and Fitness Centre.

The decision is the results of the referendum to determine whether to allow the municipality to borrow up to $50 million for the proposed replacement facility.

Voting was held on Nov. 4, with advance voting dates on Oct. 25 and Oct. 31.

There were a total of 4,625 ballots cast, with 1,943 in favour and 2,682 opposed.

READ ALSO: Referendum to determine fate of Summerland Recreation Centre

“The people are always right. This is the result,” Mayor Doug Holmes said after the results had been presented. “Obviously this isn’t the solution the community is looking for.”

He added that the referendum question had been presented following five years of community engagement and discussions on the existing pool.

The centre was proposed as a replacement for the Summerland Aquatic and Fitness Centre on Kelly Avenue. The existing pool was opened in 1976 and had been expanded twice, in 1988 and in 1996. When this facility was built, Summerland’s population was a little more than half of what it is today.

At present, the 47-year-old structure still has the original pool and system.

Municipal staff had identified issues with the original building, including air and water leaks as well as problems with termites and rodents in the building.

“Most of the building envelope is in poor condition with significant air and water leakage and potential for mold,” a statement on the municipality’s Frequently Asked Questions about the pool reads.

In addition, the present facility uses around 86 per cent more energy per unit of floor area than the average swimming pool.

In 2018, a 1008-page report prepared for Summerland council by Stantec Consulting Ltd., showed the facility was at the end of its serviceable life, and all major mechanical, electrical and pool systems had exceeded their usable life.

In 2021, the municipality completed a needs assessment to explore a replacement for the existing pool facility. At that time, two surveys showed 83 per cent of respondents strongly supported replacing the existing facility while another 10 per cent somewhat supported replacing the pool. The number one indoor recreation space identified as a priority was aquatics.

Under provincial legislation, the referendum had to be worded as a clear yes or no question, not a question with multiple choices. Support for the referendum would be based on a simple majority of ballots cast.

If the pool referendum had passed, it would have meant a $50 million replacement project. The cost estimates for the proposed Summerland Recreation Centre included the cost of constructing the pool as well as contingencies such as a design contingency allowance of 10 per cent, a construction contingency of five per cent and an additional contingency of $1 million for unforeseen expenses or delays.

Borrowing the full amount of the money would have resulted in increased taxes.

For a typical home in Summerland with an assessed value of $899,173, the increased tax burden would have been $560.86 a year in parcel and property taxes in 2027, when all four loans would have been borrowed.

The costs could have been reduced if a grant application of $25 million through the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program had come through. However, the status of this application was not known during the referendum campaign or by the day of the final vote.

There were around 10,000 eligible voters in this election, including Summerland residents and out-of-town residents who own property in the community.

The raw number of votes works out to 42 per cent in favour and 58 per cent against. These numbers are unofficial results, based on ballot accounts prepared from each voting opportunity and are subject to the determination of official referendum results by the chief election officer. The official vote tally will be confirmed no later than Nov. 8 at 4 p.m.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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