qathet Regional District’s committee of the whole is recommending that the regional board respectfully deny a request from Myrtle Point Golf Club for a permissive tax exemption for the 2021 tax year.
At the September 10 committee of the whole meeting, Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he had mixed feelings about the initiative.
He said the golf club did not get its tax exemption last year and he thinks they put in a grant application, which is more or less similar to the amount they would get from a tax exemption. He asked about the status of that grant application and was advised it will be considered at a later time.
City director George Doubt said he’d pulled out the regional district’s board financial policy document that provides evaluation criteria for permissive tax exemption requests. He said the statement talks about services provided being a benefit to the majority of people within a community.
“In this report, staff is of the opinion that total users do not represent the majority of people within the community,” said Doubt.
He said he was wondering what staff is consistently using for the definition of a community.
Chief administrative officer Al Radke said that in the policy Doubt was citing, it indicates providing a benefit to a majority of the people in a community.
“I believe a majority is greater than a half,” said Radke. “I don’t even know if a statutory permissive tax can meet that recommendation. The first thing that popped into my mind when you talk about statutory exemptions would be schools and places of worship. I doubt if either of those could provide services to the majority of the community.
“So, I think we have a contradiction of terms, because if you go down into the criteria, point number three says services available to the general public. That’s what it all really boils down to is what is being done for the general public, and who is able and eligible to participate. If you do the math, I don’t think it reaches the 50.1 per cent majority.”
Doubt said when making determinations, he wondered which community was being looked at – all of the people in the electoral areas, all of the people in the regional district, or people in one particular electoral area.
“The reason why I’m asking these questions is I think the policy is very subjective the way it is now and we leave a lot of leeway to the directors to decide whether or not to support,” said Doubt. “The policy could be reviewed.”
Electoral Area C Director Clay Brander said he agreed with conclusions staff came to on this application. He said it was not a wide enough cross-section of the public. He said he thought the golf club was quite generous in coming up with the figure of 5,800 non-member users, in making the assumption that each person golfed a single time.
“If everyone played twice, we’re down to 2,900 residents who actually used the course and that’s not a large enough percentage,” said Brander.
Electoral Area A director Patrick Brabazon said the golf club tax matter keeps coming back to the regional board.
“Director Doubt is correct,” said Brabazon. “The policy is poorly written and I think we should put changing it in our to-do list.
“As far as which community we’re talking about, we’re talking about Electoral Areas A, B, C and D and the City of Powell River. I think the majority of the membership and the people who pay are probably municipal. Director Brander is correct and you can throw numbers around. From my limited knowledge of golf players, they don’t just go out once a year and play a round of golf. I’m in favour of denying.”
Gisborne said a report has come back from staff to review the permissive tax exemption policy and the regional district has chosen not to change it.
“It’s interesting to hear that members of the board are considering possibly changing the policy,” said Gisborne. “In my opinion, the Myrtle Point Golf Club does provide a community benefit. We provide funding to a number of different organizations and events because they attract residents to our community. I do see the advantage and benefit it provides to the community.
“However, there is a proposed grant that we are going to be looking at in October. The grant and the tax exemption are kind of linked in terms of, do we support them or not?”
Radke said if a permissive tax exemption is granted, the other taxpayers have to pick it up. He said what it boils down to financially is that the average homeowner in Electoral Area B would have an 84 cent hit to their taxes if the permissive tax exemption was granted.
The committee voted to send the recommendation denying the request to the regional board.