Land purchase will solve Sooke’s recreational needs for 100 years

It will not result in a tax increase for Sooke or Juan de Fuca residents, and SEAPARC will spend the next two months communicating the plan.

The purple border highlights the proposed acquisition by SEAPARC. The commission is hopeful that residents will recognize the value of this undertaking and support obtaining this key property for future generations.

Sooke and Electoral Area Parks and Recreation Commission, also known as SEAPARC, has made an offer to buy the 9.5-hectare DeMamiel Creek Golf Course subject to a referendum to be held on April 30 for Juan de Fuca and Sooke residents.

Playing fields and SEAPARC facilities are operating at capacity and we have an opportunity to buy the adjacent cleared and relatively level lands neighbouring SEAPARC .

This acquisition is a long-term investment which will satisfy the land requirements for all future outdoor recreational projects.

It will not result in a tax increase for Sooke or Juan de Fuca residents, and SEAPARC will spend the next two months communicating the plan.

Besides public information meetings, residents may access information online at crd.bc.ca/seaparc or email SEAPARC manager Steve Knoke at sknoke@crd.bc.ca or SEAPARC chair Mike Hicks at directorjdf@crd.bc.ca with any questions.

Here is the plan:

SEAPARC is a partnership between the District of Sooke and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, serving residents from East Sooke to Port Renfrew.

The annual budget to operate and maintain the pool, ice arena, bike park, skate board park and Stan Jones field is approximately $3.6 million of which $1 million is derived from user fees and $2.6 million is requisitioned from the taxpayers through property taxes.

The taxes are apportioned between the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area and District of Sooke based on population resulting in a 75 per cent Sooke and 25 per cent JdF split.

The annual $3.6-million budget is apportioned between operating and capital reserve.

A total of $3.1 million is used for operating wages, repairs and maintenance and utilities and $500,000 in capital reserves is used for equipment replacement, building improvements, vehicle replacements, signage, major repairs, land purchase and building additions.

An average payment of $378,000 was paid to service the $4.4-million pool debt established in 1998. At this time, SEAPARC has no debt, $1 million in the capital reserve fund and an annual requisition of $500,000 towards the fund.

In anticipation of the debt retirement, SEAPARC commissioned a strategic plan to identify the recreational needs and desires of the community.

The process, involving staff, commission and community consultation, recommended the short-term strategy of adding a 4,000-square-foot weight and activity room and a long-term strategy of buying additional land for future recreational needs.

SEAPARC has decided to maintain the tax requisition at the present level to build the weight and activity room addition and buy the golf course.

The land would be financed over 15 years and it is hoped the activity room expansion would be built in the next three years.

SEAPARC is forecasting that the present tax rate would be sufficient to fund the purchase and there would be no tax increase necessary to fund these two projects. It is also planned that the requisition would be re-examined after completion of the addition.

Although the commission, in the short term, will consider contracting-out the golf course operation on a break-even basis, the intermediate- and long-term vision is for future recreational fields for the expanding Sooke and Juan de Fuca population.

Currently Juan de Fuca residents have a mill rate of .498 and Sooke .878.  SEAPARC will be borrowing $750,000 at three per cent interest, amortized over 15 years.

The annual payment of $61,000 will result in a cost of $4.80 each year for a home valued at $400,000 in the JdF and the annual cost of $8.40 for the same valued home in Sooke.

The $61,000 would be allocated from the capital reserve fund with the remaining $439,000 dedicated to funding the capital replacement items and expansion. There would not be an increase in the overall annual tax rate required to fund the land acquisition.

SEAPARC appreciates that property taxes are high and has done all it can over the past few years to manage recreation facilities in a frugal, efficient manner. The commission also realizes the adjacent property could supply all the field requirements for the next 100 years.

Eighty years ago the Sooke Community Association had the foresight to buy land for the recreational needs of Sooke and JdF residents.

We have the opportunity to add to its legacy and through the upcoming referendum planned for April 30,  Sooke and the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area electorate will voice their opinion on this important decision.

The commission is hopeful that residents will recognize the value of this undertaking and support obtaining this key property for future generations.

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Mike Hicks is chair of the SEAPARC commission and Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director.