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REPORTING · 4th August 2012
Walter McFarlane
Due to sickness, this and one other article were left over from June. Both were posted today

Council met on Monday, June 25th in Committee of the Whole to discuss the Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw. Several members of Council, including Mayor Joanne Monaghan and Councillor Corrine Scott were not present at the meeting. Acting Mayor Mario Feldhoff took charge. Before any motions hit the floor, he asked Municipal Manager Ron Poole to explain in depth, what was going to happen.

Poole explained there was a concern about other unsightly areas around town, notably Service Centre and Nechako Centre. Deputy Treasurer Lyle McNish had brought forward some questions which Council needed to answer before the bylaw took shape.

The questions revolved around objectives, classifications and instructions. Feldhoff suggested going through recommendation by recommendation and making decisions one at a time.

Councillor Phil Germuth had a problem with adopting things at the meeting. “This is Councillor Scott’s motion to start into this and, as you can see, Councillor Scott isn’t here, our Mayor isn’t here, I’m just wondering how far we were going. I was thinking of a motion to table this until we have a full meeting,” said Germuth.

Feldhoff stated it could be September until all the Councillors are back from vacation. He suggested passing the motions and if a Councillor was upset, they could re-debate it.

Councillor Mary Murphy stated Scott wanted the Council to move ahead and Poole suggested doing this made it easier for Administration to put the bylaw together.

Germuth suggested the bylaw only apply to commercial properties, and that it apply not just to fixing them up and building them, but also include tearing them down.

The motion, to implement a Revitalization Tax Exemption Bylaw to encourage investment by property owners to make their buildings more attractive and rejuvenate the community passed.

The next motion was for the two areas to be Nechako Centre and the Downtown revitalization area. None of the Councillors had a problem with the Downtown revitalization area but Goffinet wanted to know what buildings would be encompassed in the Nechako. He was told it would be the commercial buildings there.

Feldhoff suggested an amendment to include Service Centre. Germuth stated Service Centre needed to be cleaned up and this would be an avenue to get it done.

McNish told Council the reason Service Centre was not included was because he was looking at who would be drawn to this project and other staff stated investment dollars from out of town were already being spent in Service Centre. The businesses down town would be able to recoup the money invested by customer spending.

Councillor Edwin Empinado stated Service Centre should be included because the people of Kitimat think it should be included. Germuth stated he did not want to exclude businesses. Feldhoff pointed out there were businesses who would not be treated equally to similar businesses in the rest of Kitimat.

Poole stated the down town core and the Nechako Centre were seeing the least amount of development. The Service Centre was not chosen because there was a lack of land there because the owners did not want to sell their property.

Feldhoff stated he wanted to see further improvements to local businesses, citing the Kitimat Hotel as an example.

“My only concern is, for the amount of development going in there, you will be waving taxes for those people and it’s not like this bylaw is needed to encourage it, it’s happening already. Those are the areas which are usually slower…” said Poole.

Feldhoff cut him off because he wanted to know if the bylaw would apply to buildings on raw land. Poole asked McNish if a building was taken down and something was built anew, would it be exempted. He was told yes.

Germuth stated he did not know of one derelict building being taken down in Service Centre so something could be built anew, although he was aware of a few projects which were being built up.

Empinado wanted to know why Service Centre was excluded. Poole expressed Terrace has a bylaw which was put into place for an area where development was slow. He told the Council there is development going into Service Centre, but property owners just do not want to get rid of their property down there.

Feldhoff stated he wanted this to be the carrot which can be placed in front of the owners to start getting things moving in Service Centre. Germuth agreed, if the property owner of the derelict buildings in Service Centre was told he would not have to pay taxes on them if he tore them down, he might not be so reluctant to do so.

The Council further hammered out the points of Service Centre and agreed to include it in the exemption bylaw. A further amendment was put forward to include other businesses in the community as well. This amendment was called and carried although administration wanted to look into where the Downtown Revitalization Area ended and the Service Centre began. Poole suggested they look at zoning, rather than areas.

The question to look into all businesses was also called and carried.

Council moved on to determine what the minimum value of a project which would be tax exempt would be. They decided the minimum investment would be $100,000. Germuth stated they would have to designate what the money would go to. It would be possible for someone to upgrade $80,000 on the outside and $20,000 on the inside.

Council was told it would be based on the net increase done by BC assessment, from the pre-construction value to the post-construction value. It would be based on construction costs through the building permit process and demolition process.

The minimum of $100,000 was called and carried.

Feldhoff wanted a length of time to be set. Goffinet suggested having staff suggest the best time limit. Feldhoff wanted a recommendation to staff to have a value decision and the staff could make a suggestion. Poole suggested five years. McNish listed examples and pointed out there were not many who carried the exemption up to ten years.

Staff recommended 5 years. A motion to limit the time to five years was called and carried.
Council gets it a.. backwards AGAIN...
Comment by Larry on 6th August 2012
It should be INCREASED TAXES if the commerical property owner does not want to spruce up his/her derlict property. should be a tax exemption of the owner of his/her residental property put $$ into upgrading their property (which in turn makes the neighborhood look nicer and raises property values).
Detail would be nice
Comment by David on 5th August 2012
It would be nice to get some detail on what this exemption will mean to the overall tax roll. Will taxpayers be paying for a portion of the taxes or are all the other taxpayers paying the first 100,000 in renovation costs for businesses paying 20,000 plus in taxes per year?

In other words are we paying for an upgrade at Overwaitea to the tune of 100,000. Will they get the full taxes back. I love the idea of an exemption to assist but would like some details to see if this has been done the right way or not.