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Regional board seeks fair way to treat golf club

Request for tax exemption drives some directors to vote no

Three Powell River Regional District directors were teed off with Myrtle Point Golf Club’s request for a tax exemption in 2015.

At the regional district’s board meeting on Wednesday, September 17, the board was split on whether to provide relief, and indicated that if the golf club wanted a break in 2016, it would have to go to referendum.

Vanessa Olson, administrator at the golf club, said it is a non-profit society that undertook significant restructuring the previous year with First Credit Union.

“We are in a better financial position than we were last year but it is still a work in progress,” she said. “We have an aging membership and we are looking to draw in the youth of the community and people that are new to town.”

The club is requesting a break on the recreation/non-profit portion of its taxes, a sum that was $8,449 in 2014.

“We are doing better but it’s not a home run,” she added. “We are looking for assistance in different areas to keep growing the programs and making golf accessible for everybody, from kids in school, to juniors looking for scholarships, up to seniors retiring and looking to stay healthy and active.”

Steve Phillips, general manager at the club, said he has been a golf professional for 33 years. He said the golf industry is challenged in Powell River in not having a huge captive audience.

Phillips has drawn a comparison of golf courses in similar demographic areas as Myrtle Point. Powell River is at the very low end of the scale of what golf courses are charging golfers.

“We’re doing it because we have to remain affordable for the town itself and we have to attract whatever we can from Vancouver Island and the Sechelt Peninsula,” he said. “We have to take into consideration that people wanting to come here to golf have to absorb the cost of the ferry.”

Phillips said the golf club struggled financially for a number of years but is in much better financial shape now. However, there are challenges, he said, indicating the club has to replace $350,000 worth of equipment in the next four years.

“Whatever help we can get we sincerely appreciate.”

When it came time to discuss the resolution, Dave Murphy, Area D director from Texada Island, said several years ago, the regional board received a request from the Texada Legion to help with a funding shortfall. Part of the facility is used for hosting public meetings and functions. Murphy supported giving the Legion a financial grant in aid and also voted in support of a tax exemption. The regional board defeated the tax exemption request. Murphy, as director, awarded a financial assistance grant.

“I’m appalled and a bit misunderstanding of how this can come about now,” he said. “A two-tiered system helped Myrtle Point Golf Course get a financial grant from the entire area and is now on the verge of getting tax exemption. I’m not in favour of this whatsoever.”

Stan Gisborne, Area B director, in whose area the golf course is situated, said there is no doubt the golf course is a benefit to the community.

“However, if they don’t pay their share of taxes, everyone else has to pay,” he said. Last year and the year before, grants in aid were awarded, which cost local taxpayers more than $17,000. He said the golf club came to the regional board several years ago and asked for a tax exemption for one year, which was granted.

Further tax exemptions have been requested, so a referendum was held and the public did not approve paying the taxes for the golf course.

“I can’t vote against the results of that referendum,” he said.

Area A Director Patrick Brabazon said the grant in aid last year was a sore point, and will be for some of the directors for years to come. He, too, said he would vote no.

Jim Palm, City of Powell River director, said the Powell River area is doing everything in its power to diversify the economy, but the message he would like the delegation to take back to the golf course members, if the motion passes, is that “this is basically it. After this you are going to be on your own.”

Murphy, Gisborne and Brabazon voted against the motion, but because it was a weighted vote, where some directors hold more votes than others, the motion passed 10 votes to three.