Tax implication irks mayor

The site of the new Columbia Shuswap Regional District office to be built on Harbourfront Drive continues to be a thorn in the side of Mayor Nancy Cooper.

Cooper says she was “ticked off” that the regional district sped up a land transfer deal to escape paying $18,000 in taxes to Salmon Arm.

The issue arose when CSRD Financial Services manager Peter Jarman asked directors to approve an amendment to the 2013 five year financial plan bylaw, which they had unanimously approved Nov. 14.

At that time, the master agreement between CSRD and MMH Developments Ltd. included a land purchase in January 2014.

“However, upon review, it was realized that in order to receive the Local Government Property Tax Exemption for 2014, the land title transfer would need to be registered with the Land Title Office by Dec. 31,” wrote Jarman in his report.

Jarman told directors CSRD staff believed the board would be willing to approve the amendment after the fact.

Cooper, who had not been present at the Nov. CSRD board meeting, reiterated that she had heard complaints from many people, including some from Area C South Shuswap.

“For me, that is some of the best property and should be used by a lot of people, not government offices,” she said, pointing out that had the property been developed by a commercial venture, the City of Salmon Arm would be able to collect the taxes.

City of Salmon Arm rep Debbie Cannon asked for clarification on the property taxes before offering her support for the location of the new building.

“It was prudent the CSRD caught it and I’ll support it because that property was available for other businesses,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of talk at this table and I’ll totally support it.”

Jarman noted that the two waterfront properties the regional district owns will be sold, effectively ending their tax exempt status.

“We have a very complex agreement with the proponent and with the greatest deal of respect to Mayor Cooper, I thought these issues were dealt with at a meeting in Canoe,” added chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton, referring to the Sept. 23 meeting of Salmon Arm Council, in Canoe. “The report I received was that Salmon Arm council viewed it very favourably. The other thing to keep in mind is this was the low-cost proposal… This was not entirely CSRD’s decision, we followed bylaws etc.”

The amendment subsequently passed, with only Cooper opposed.

Following the meeting, the mayor again expressed her annoyance at the land purchase.

“Taxes must be paid,” she wrote in an email to the Observer. “So instead of spreading the $18,000 over the entire CSRD region for 2014, that $18,000 will be paid by Salmon Arm taxpayers.”

But CSRD cahir David Raven noted that having second thoughts at this point would have legal implications.

“We have not dismissed or not listened to the input from any director. We, as a board, chose the best option presented to us by the development community.”


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