Community and business friendly tax breaks approved by council

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
October 13th, 2011

 Two property tax exemption bylaws were adopted unanimously by council last night, the first granting “permissive” exemptions to a wide variety of non-profit organizations and the second granting a “revitalization” exemption to this year’s only applicant, Quince Tree Enterprises for upgrades to the historic BMO building.

The revitalization tax exemption bylaw was debated and passed by council last year to encourage downtown core building owners to renovate and upgrade their properties. Under the bylaw, increases in assessed value due to improvements will not be taxed for five years, and then will be taxed at graduated rates up to full payment over the subsequent five years.

Incidentally, pro-business policies such as the revitalization exemption and one of the lowest small business tax rates in the province placed Rossland among six municipalities to receive “B.C.’s Most Small Business Friendly Community Award” at the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) meeting in Vancouver in September. The award recognizes communities that reduce regulatory barriers, actively recognize small business contributions, work to enhance competitiveness, and adopt climate change initiatives that support small business.

So far, only Quince Tree Enterprises has qualified for the revitalization exemption for the extensive renovations performed over the last year by owner Fletcher Quince and the building’s new occupants. Thanks to these renovations, the building is no longer vacant and now houses the Rouge Gallery on its main floor and a variety of retail businesses from sporting goods to shoes as well as a hair salon. As renovations proceed—especially the costly addition of modern fire protection—the BMO could soon have apartments and a business centre upstairs.

“I’m really happy to see that building active and vibrant downtown,” Coun. Kathy Wallace said.

Exemptions for non-profits are a routine council follows each year. As usual, the following buildings were exempt: Sacred Heart Church, Parish Hall, St Andrew’s United Church, Rossland Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Rossland Swimming Pool Society, Rossland Health Care Auxiliary Society (the thrift store), Rossland Child Care Society (Golden Bear), Rossland Light Opera Players, the Canadian Legion Pacific No. 14, and the Golden City Manor Society.

Only Coun. Kathy Moore was in any way critical of the city’s policy. In September she said, “We’re allowed to give these exemptions for up to 10 years [under provincial legislation]. It’s quite a use of staff and volunteer time to fill out all this paperwork and do this every year. I’d like to grant these exemptions to these particular groups for three years or five years, or some longer term.”

Corporate Officer Tracey Butler advised against a motion because it’s an election year. “We don’t want to tie the hands of the next council,” she said.

Moore replied, “Every single meeting we put things in place that affect the next council. This is a small one ‘to tie the hands of the next council.’ We’ve done every single one of these [permissive exemptions] as recommended for three years. This is a very gentle handcuff.”

Mayor Greg Granstrom resisted any change: “The onus is on people to apply. It should stay there.”

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