Can Bluejay Farm opt out of Cortes Island's fire protection service area?

Can Blue Jay Lake Farm Opt Out?

Bluejay Lake Farm straddles the boundary of the Cortes Island fire protection service area. All of the buildings are north of the line, where there is no protection for structures. The property within the protected area is mostly field and forest. Can Bluejay Farm opt out of the protected area? 

Starts at 6:43

 Bluejay Lake Farm’s Request

“… We would like to not have to pay the taxes as we aren’t receiving the services. We have our own fire fighting equipment, including 4 pumps and 1200′ of hose. We wish to use that money we could save to continue to build our own “dept’. Not sure what is possible, but am asking for your assistance,” Henry Verschuur emailed the SRD, last October. 

He subsequently added, “Having said that, we really want the best relationship with our local (awesome) fire dept, so we’ll leave it up to your discretion. Don’t want to make any waves! 

Shaun Koopman, the SRD’s Protective Services Coordinator, discussed the issue with Henry, the Cortes Island Fire Department and SRD management.

Can Bluejay Farm opt out of Cortes Island's fire protection service area?
Maps showing the location of Bluejay Lake Farm on Cortes Island (above) and a closer look at the property (top of page) – Courtesy SRD Staff Report

Staff Advises The Request Be Denied

Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch recommended that Bluejay Lake Farm’s request be denied, in a staff report :

“… The Regional District has confirmed that the current fire protection boundary bisects the applicant’s property as shown on the maps below. There are no records in the possession of the Regional District to explain why the boundary was established in this manner. The Cortes Island Fire Fighter’s Association (CIFFA) has stated that the difficulty with providing service to this property is that the long access road is not part of highways, and therefore not maintained to those standards (eg. plowed during snow events), however access by private road is not an uncommon arrangement on Cortes Island. The property in question is located approximately 10 kilometres from each of the 2 fire halls on Cortes Island.” 

“While it may be appropriate to consider the removal of property from a service area in egregious circumstances (eg. the property is physically unable to be serviced) the removal of property based on owner preference is generally not a good policy and could lead to a number of similar requests …”  

June 10 EASC Meeting

Senior Manager Thomas Yates explained this position at EASC’s June 10th meeting,  “This is not a unique situation on Cortes, there are quite a few properties [that] … would not want the service, or are better at providing the service independently or other reasons. … As a general principle, we are cautioning the committee about allowing properties to be removed solely on the basis that they don’t particularly like the service.”  

Alternate Director Dow Asks Questions

Cortes Island Alternate Director Corry Dow asked if Bluejay Lake Farm is paying for fire protection based in the assessed value of the buildings (which are outside the protected area)? Or just on the land which is actually within the protected area? 

Mr Yates replied, “Only that portion of the land within the protected area is subject to annual taxation. We will be checking further into that and, if there is a concern, will take care of it.”

“Is it possible to incorporate the rest of his property into the fire protection service?“ asked Dow.

“We have not received any indication from the property owner that he would like to look at that alternative, It is something that can be done, there is a process for doing it,” said Yates.

Chief Administrative Officer David Leitch added that properties can always make applications to join service areas.

“Those requests must always come from the property owners and he hasn’t made that request.”

Bluejay Lake Farm’s Application Deferred

Mr Leitch suggested that staff look into the matter further. 

So the committee decided to defer making a decision until they receive a further report from staff.