Sad looking dog with its head in the sand

Seeking Electoral Consent for Cortes Dog Control Service

It has been 9 months since 106 Cortes Island residents petitioned the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) to set up a Dog control service bylaw. At their February 28th meeting, the SRD Board passed a motion to seek electoral consent through the alternate approval process. According to Regional Director Mark Vonesch, if the service is approved the average homeowner would probably see an increase of somewhere between $4 and $20 to their property taxes, depending on the final form of the bylaw.  If 97 of the island’s 961 electors notify the SRD that they are opposed by April 15, 2024, the bylaw will be considered defeated.

Mark Vonesch – courtesy SRD website

“I realize this is a very divisive issue on Cortes. I’m personally not a dog owner, but I’ve talked to lots of people about this issue. Emotions run high. It seems like there’s lots of people who want to control dogs on the island. There’s also people who don’t. We’ll see if there’s enough to stop this, bylaw” explained Regional Director Mark Vonesh.   

If there is no serious opposition, the SRD Board could pass Cortes Island’s new Dog Service bylaw at its May 22 board meeting. 

“It’s a tricky situation and, no matter what I do there are going to be people upset, but I do want to move forward with what the community has asked me for in terms of the potential  dog bylaws. I think there are some common sense things that we could do quite cheaply,  as far as  making sure dogs have to be under control or on leash  in public areas.” 

Vonesch said if the proposed bylaw is defeated, he may revisit the issue to see what people think in another year or so. 

“When I create new services at the SRD, I have three options. If it’s a really non controversial service, maybe there’s no tax requisition for it, or very little or there’s just no controversy, I can just do it by director’s assent. or I can say we’re doing it. My other option is to do an alternative approval process where it comes back to the community and if 10 percent of the electorate write in against it, it stops it from happening for a year. The other option is to do a referendum, and the referendum costs about $60,000 – of course everybody gets to vote.” 

“In this case, because I had a hundred names on a petition, I’ve asked to come back to the community and see if there’s strong opposition against it.”

“We’re never going to get consensus on issues like this.  I think that’s just the reality that we have to live with. When I first thought about running for this position. I really wanted to run on the idea that we can talk to each other, regardless of what side of issues we were on. I hope that people have empathy for people who are on the other side of this issue and that  conversations can happen that are curious and are working to create understanding rather than blame and anger, because it is really easy to go that way.” 

Top image credit: Dog on the Beach – Photo courtesy Virginia State Parks via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

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