John Marsh said the Island Corridor Foundation is clearly a very political issue, not only in Qualicum Beach, but throughout the Island.
Director of finance Marsh provided information on the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF) and permissive taxation for Qualicum Beach council at Monday’s council meeting.
“It’s certainly troubling and it’s difficult for me to have confidence in many of the aspects of the ICF that I read based on its current structure,” Marsh said.
Within his report, Marsh discussed the history of the ICF including the town’s 25-year agreement in 2011 with the ICF to use and occupy the rail corridor because of this deal, the ICF was granted a tax exemption.
In that same year, the ICF discontinued passenger rail service due to unsafe track conditions, but the town continued to exempt them from property taxes.
In 2013, the town stopped making payments of its railway crossing fees to the railway operator because of the discontinued service. This, to date, has amounted to about $40,000.
In his report, Marsh said “although refusing to pay railway crossing fees is not the ideal method of resolving the railway dispute, the town could not continue to pay for a service it was not receiving.”
Coun. Bill Luchtmiejer said the discontinued service negates the deal for a tax exemption.
“I think we as a council would be wise to say to them, ‘sorry, we’d love to have a train but we don’t have a train’ and as result, we shouldn’t be giving them a tax exemption,” Luchtmeijer said. “We don’t get the train service, but we still give them the tax exemption. It has to end somewhere.”
However, Mayor Teunis Westbroek said he would be so anxious to end the tax exemption.
“We use the train station, we don’t pay anything for that,” said Westbroek, adding that the train station is a great economic incubator.
Luchtmeijer made a motion to withdraw the town from the ICF’s tax exemption, but the motion failed.
The next council meeting is Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.