Last minute objections to revitalization tax exemption
The looming, potential revitalization tax exemption bylaw surfaced at council again this week. Following the past Committee of the Whole meeting the COW recommended that council move ahead with first, second and third readings of the adjusted possible bylaw. As it appeared the bylaw was nearing adoption however a new issue arose supported by two councilors passionately opposed to a certain section of the bylaw.
As part of the yet-to-be-adopted bylaw, applications for the tax exemption must be submitted to the city no later than August 31st. The applications for the Red Lodge and BMO building projects came in on September 29th and 30th. Under the recommendation of city staff, these two projects would be eligible for the tax exemption on their potentially increased assessments due to their improvement projects.
Councillors Andy Stradling and Laurie Charlton picked up on this and pushed their case strongly and passionately at this week’s council meeting.
Stradling’s point was that neither of these two projects are a revitalization effort that was begun because of the bylaw and that they would have gone on regardless so why give away inventive money. Consequently, he feels that helping them out would simply be a tax payer handout.
“It’s immoral and wrong to be robbing our taxpayers. Those taxpayers, really, I don’t think should be having to see their money being just handed out. I’m in favour of the bylaw but I’m not in favour of signing on to the hand out portion of it.”
Speaking to the other councillors in the chambers, Stradling asked them to check themselves before making their decisions.
“If you vote this through, all of you will have to go to the taxpayers and find that $150,000 of their money that you handed out to two developers. I cannot see how you can make an incentive program when the work has already been done. You can’t make it retroactive. How far back are we going to go?”
The $150,000 Stradling referred to would have come from the $22,000 in each years of exemption that the two business owners would have otherwise potentially had to pay. Stradling added that if they were to receive the second five year extension, it would add an additional roughly $50,000 in potential lost revenues.
Charlton also brought up the issue of the city’s credibility if it allows two projects to be included that contravene the rules set out in the new bylaw.
“The point is that those properties included in schedule F’s owners decided to proceed with those developments based on their own requirements, needs and desires and they had nothing to do with the potential of getting a tax exemption. By including those properties it is a retroactive gift to those property owners. By including those properties on this tax exemption bylaw, we are thumbing out nose at our own bylaw that says the applications must be received prior to August 31st. We always talk about how people in town ignore our bylaws, and now the city itself is talking about ignoring its own bylaws.”
The motion was made to amend the recommendation to include a deletion of schedule F which includes the two properties in question. That amendment was defeated 2-5 with Stradling and Charlton in favour.
When the original motion to hold a special meeting for first, second and third readings was called to question council voted 5-2 in favour of holding a special meeting to pass first, second and third readings of the bylaw prior to adoption. Stradling and Charlton were opposed.
The special meeting for the new revitalization tax exemption bylaw will be held October 27th at noon in City Hall council chambers