Wanting to honour an agreement and fearing the repercussions Langford faced, the City of Parksville gave Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) an exemption on property taxes totalling about $13,000/year.
At its August 15 meeting, city council approved tax exemptions — some 100 per cent, some less — for various churches and service organizations. It stopped short of approval for the ICF, asking for a staff report on the ramifications of denying its exemption.
According to a staff report considered by council at its regular meeting last night (Wednesday), Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Lantzville, Nanaimo and the Regional District of Nanaimo entered into an agreement with the ICF to allow the municipalities to use and occupy lands owned by the ICF, basically the railway corridor. As a condition of that agreement, the municipalities provided property tax exemptions for the ICF. The agreement is for 25 years, starting in 2011, but has to be renewed every 10 years, a requirement of the Community Charter of B.C.
"My vote will be to respect the contract we have," Parksville Mayor Marc Lefebvre said this week. "I don't want to be a bad customer."
Also part of the staff report before council Wednesday night was a reference to the District of Langford's decision two years ago to deny the tax exemption — it's about $50,000 in revenue for that community. "Following that decision," read the report, "every time the District of Langford wishes to undertake works in the rail corridor they are invoiced $50,000 by the ICF, which coincidentally is the amount of property taxes which are applicable to ICF properties in Langford.”
Langford’s longtime Mayor Stewart Young, a vocal opponent to the structure and operations of the ICF, confirmed what was in the Parksville staff report.
“We did it (took away the ICF’s tax exemption) and they threatened us and started charging fictitious fees,” Young told The NEWS. “They blackmailed me. I’m trying to represent our taxpayers fairly and I don’t like it when the taxpayers get fleeced over a bunch of bulls***.”
Young said he believes it is against the law for a municipality to give tax breaks and exemptions to businesses and he also believes it is wrong to provide breaks and incentives if there is no benefit to taxpayers.
“There would be a benefit if the train was running,” he said, pointing to the pressing need to alleviate well-known traffic congestion in and around Langford, which includes access to some portions of ICF lands.
Rail service on Vancouver Island was suspended due to unsafe track conditions in 2011.
For results of the vote on the ICF’s tax exemption status in Parksville, and other city council news from Wednesday night, keep checking www.pqbnews.com and read Tuesday’s edition of The NEWS.