Dear Re: Business Regulation and Business Licence By-law Amendments Public Meeting, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002:
On the evening prior to the public meeting held at Myrtle Philip Community School, it came to our attention that possession of a business licence by TA zoned homeowners could cause the B.C. Assessment Authority to automatically change the mill rating on our properties from Class 1 to Class 6. This would result in a three-fold increase in our property taxes. We are given to understand, in informal legal consultations, that this is a realistic expectation.
In the RMOW Web site FAQs regarding the Business Licence By-law Amendment, the municipality states: "There is no financial impact and no impact to your property tax assessment or property tax classification." Clearly, the RMOW is making a statement it has no right to make. Property tax classifications are determined by the province, not by municipalities. In this matter, the potential impact upon homeowners is not insignificant; it is huge.
In the matter of enforcement of zoning regulations on owners of illegally rented residentially zoned property, resolution via business licensing, as proposed by the RMOW, is plagued by two key issues: first, staff is ill-informed and ill-prepared to deal effectively with the problem of illegal property rentals; and second, law abiding TA zoned owners will bear the brunt of punishment for their non-law abiding neighbours.
During the last several weeks, RMOW staff has made significant efforts to consult with stakeholders in this issue and they are to be commended. They have opened the channels of communication both offering and inviting exchanges of information. I believe it is fair to say that those included in these exchanges shared a common concern for the welfare of the municipality. Nonetheless, at every juncture, staff's preparation to answer significant challenges is minimal. We are convinced that either staff is seeking advice in the wrong places, or it is seeking the wrong advice.
RMOW staff insists that their objective is simultaneously to improve their enforcement tools and to protect TA zoned homeowners. While we do not fault them for the former, we seriously question the latter. The potential effects of a business licence range from bureaucratic hurdles to a 300 per cent increase in taxes. This can hardly be construed as protection. There must be another answer to the problem of illegal rentals.
Several highly knowledgeable lawyers spoke at the public meeting on Saturday, all of them re-asserting the opinion that, with the existing B.C. Court of Appeal ruling in hand, the RMOW already has the very tool which it needs to enforce illegal rentals. Furthermore, the opinion was expressed that any attempt to use a new business licence regime to enforce those same illegal rentals will require the same evidentiary procedures which already exist in a zoning regime. Consequently, the RMOW would be no further ahead. This should lay to rest any notions that a business licensing regime will improve enforcement.