There’s a lot going on around the Tofino Community Hall.
Tofino has stretched out the timeline for a potential recreation facility while it watches how other projects play out.
The recreation facility is a roughly 11,000 sq. ft. indoor gym and fitness centre currently slated to slot in next to the community hall.
It would be paid for through taxation if it passes a referendum scheduled for 2018.
Tofino’s municipal council budgeted $50,000 to complete site planning work and a cost analysis for the proposed facility in 2016 but this work has been pushed back a year to wait and see how the area’s other projects develop.
During June 28’s regular council meeting, Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers brought council up to speed on the project’s slowed approach.
He said the current vision for the area is to eventually include the recreation facility, an upgraded community hall, a wastewater treatment plant, a civic centre, a library, an outdoor plaza and a roughly 50-stall parking lot.
The community hall’s current parking lot would be flattened and a significant amount of rocks removed.
Rodgers said a swimming pool could be welcomed to the mix and would be paid for through fundraising by the Tofino Pool Society.
The district has a pending grant application to upgrade the community hall and is working on the wastewater treatment plan. Talks are ongoing with Vancouver Island Regional Library officials around funding for a new library.
The outdoor plaza is expected to be paid for with Resort Municipality Initiative funds.
“Because it’s all happening around the same time, we stretched the [recreational facility] timeline a little bit to accommodate all these various moving pieces,” Rodgers said.
“The other thing we need to discuss at some point, and we’ve sort of talked around it at this table a number of times, is the multiplex.”
The West Coast Multiplex is a proposed ice rink and swimming pool that would be located near the Tofino Airport.
West Coast voters agreed to cover the multiplex’s operational costs up to $450,000 through property taxes in a 2012 referendum and this is expected to cost the average Tofitian homeowner roughly $122 a year.
Tofino is getting set to ask these same taxpayers to foot the bill for both the construction and operation of the proposed recreation facility at the community hall.
Using a rough $2 million capital cost estimate, and not accounting for any possible grants or donations, Rodgers said it would cost the average Tofitian homeowner roughly $60 a year to pay back the loan needed to build an indoor recreation facility and another $17 to cover the facility’s annual operating costs.
A 2018 referendum would let locals either agree or disagree to pay this roughly $77 property tax increase.
Tofino held an open house last month to gauge local interest in the recreation facility and Rodgers said about 98 per cent of the event’s roughly 235 attendees spoke in favour of the project.
He added an online survey brought 90 responses and painted a more divided picture with consistent concerns raised about spending money on recreation instead of a wastewater treatment plant or affordable housing.
“The idea that we need to get our house in order before we deal with recreation,” Rodgers said adding other surveys cited a swimming pool as a higher priority than a gym.
“We hear a lot about a pool, we have for many years and the community still wants a pool.”
He said a pool would fit well within the area’s vision and a wastewater treatment plant could be a cheap power source for the surrounding amenities.
“We can use the waste energy from that facility to heat our buildings, or a pool, so our longterm operating costs go down,” he said.
He said many locals have brought concerns around paying two tax hits at once if both the West Coast Multiplex and Tofino’s recreation facility are built.
“From my point of view these are drastically different projects,” he said.
“Our recreation facility is primarily directed to Tla-o-qui-aht and Tofino residents; the multiplex is a regional project.”
He said the recreation facility would fill a well-identified need for indoor space in Tofino that the multiplex would be unable to support.
“The recreation facility provides for sports and social activities like potlatches. The hockey rink and pool doesn’t have that direct use,” he said.
He said local coaches don’t have anywhere to take their athletes when it’s too wet to practice outside.
“It would be much easier to have programmable space in Tofino that’s inside and dry than a hockey rink,” he said.
“As much as a hockey rink can be converted into a gym at some point, it’s not a five minute conversation; it’s a three to four hour, or day-long, thing where you cover up the rink, put stuff down and bring in the equipment you need.”
He added Tofitians might be willing to support both projects.
Coun. Cathy Thicke said she attended the open house and researched the online surveys and came away unsure the community actually wanted a gym.
“I’m fully supportive of this concept of an indoor recreation facility and I’m thankful that, even though there’s been a few storms, the [Tofino] Rec. Commission took this on for better or for worse,” she said.
“I personally, as a councillor, don’t have a clear understanding whether the community wants, or does not want the gym facility as we see it being proposed.”
She noted the online survey asked respondents what type of features they’d like to see in a recreation facility but not whether they wanted a recreation facility or what kind of facility they wanted.
“I don’t have a clear yes or no,” she said adding the survey did not ask about a swimming pool.
“I counted in the 91 responses that the word ‘pool’ or ‘swimming’ was mentioned 40 or so times. The word ‘pool’ wasn’t even in the question…I think this idea of the pool and swimming warrants more investigation.”
She added the community outreach she’s done regarding the proposed gym has led her to believe Tofino does not want the proposed West Coast Multiplex.
“Although it wasn’t asked in an overt sense, I really felt that we do not have the support of our community to go forward in that direction,” she said.
“I don’t have a clear yes or no in terms of the gym facility. I understand now that the pool and swimming has more legs and seems to be a growing movement and the third thing is that I understood the multiplex is not well supported.”
Mayor Josie Osborne said council would be able to tackle the multiplex question better once the West Coast Multiplex Society’s revised business plan and cost analysis is released in the fall.
“With respect to the multiplex, the idea is that, by this fall, we will have a Class B estimate of the facility and an operating cost,” Osborne said.
“At which point, this council can see it and make a decision on what it wishes to do with those results and whether we wish to initiate a conversation with the [Alberni Clayoquot] Regional District.”
Coun. Dorothy Baert said she was initially hesitant towards pursuing a recreation centre in Tofino but has come around on the project.
“All my alarm bells go off because of all the other things that I’ve heard the community has been wanting and needing and we keep going back to rec[reation],” she said.
“I looked at it and thought, ‘You know what, it’s on the list, we need to approach it. We need to get it done. We need some successes; let’s move forward.’”