Island Corridor Foundation seeks property tax exemption

The town discussed the request of the Island Corridor Foundation for a permissive property tax exemption or lands in Lake Cowichan

As part of the Finance and Administration Committee meeting on July 17, the town discussed the request of the Island Corridor Foundation for a permissive property tax exemption for lands in Lake Cowichan that are part of the CVRD’s Cowichan Valley Trans Canada Trail network.

In a letter to the town, the ICF claims that because these lands were previously on rural lands and only incorporated into the town in 2008 as part of town boundary extensions, that they were previously tax exempt.

Since that time, the ICF claims that it has “overlooked the payment of taxes to the town on these two folios (sections of land) for 2009, 2010, and 2011.”

The ICF is seeking an extension of an extra seven years on the three year property tax exemption approved by the town in 2011.

The ICF, fearing that the property tax sale mechanism would kick in if it did not pay its 2009 taxes, has paid that year’s taxes in full, and is now seeking property tax exemption from the town for 2010 and 2011, and for the school tax portion only for 2009.

The letter from Graham Bruce, the chief operating officer of the ICF, to the town states that “while we understand and appreciate the concerns of council in setting precedent on tax relief (to non-profit organizations), especially when others are struggling, we go back to the basic premise that Island Corridor Foundation is an extension of local government. You, together with all other local governments and First Nations through which our corridor lands run, own us.”

“There is no point in them taxing themselves,” says Bruce. “We are closer than cousins but not quite brothers.”

Joseph Fernandez, the town’s chief administrative officer, begs to differ.

“We don’t own the organization,” he says. However, like other municipalities on Vancouver Island through which ICF lands run, “we all have an interest in it.”

Bruce says that nine out of the 14 local governments on Vancouver Island through which ICF lands run, have granted the foundation the maximum 10 year permissive property tax exemption.

“The exemption would give us financial security going forward knowing that we do not have the risk of paying property taxes and also saves us and you the administration of dealing with PTE requests every three years,” states the ICF letter to the town.

Fernandez says that council has made no decision as of yet.

“Council has asked staff to explore different options,” he says, and adds that the ICF has been asked to attend the town’s August 21 meeting at which time council will let the organization know what it has decided.

As part of Tuesday’s meeting, council also discussed applying for funding from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

The purpose of the funding is to promote environmental initiatives benefitting local communities that: protect the environment and Canadian wildlife, assist young Canadians in understanding and participating in environmental activities, and enhance cooperation among environmental citizens.

At this time the town is considering applying for funding from this initiative that would go towards various planters around the town.

Council and town staff are not sure whether this project would fit into the criteria for the grant, and staff have been directed to research this possibility as well as other project options.