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Referendum to decide tax fate of Legion, Lions

Facility upkeep putting Pemberton service organizations in hardship position



"I think it would be more of a headache for the village to have to adopt the maintenance."

Myron Ayers, Pemberton Lions’ president

Two Pemberton service organizations will have their applications for property tax exemptions for 2006 decided by referendum as part of the Nov. 19 municipal election.

Bruce Carson, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #201, made a presentation to the Village of Pemberton council outlining the organization’s charitable work in the community, as well as the VOP’s past practice regarding the collection of taxes. The Legion occupies four lots in the village with more than half of the total area designated as a parking lot.

In a letter to the VOP, Carson described the Legion’s tax history as follows:

"In the past, the parking lot of the Legion was available for visitor parking in the village and the (VOP) paid the bill. When the Pemberton Valley Supermarket was built, they were in need of parking so a lease was entered into between the parties (with PVS paying the taxes and snow clearing). The PVS has not renewed the lease and the payment of the taxes has reverted back to the Legion. We would be happy to have the parking lot available for public parking once again."

The lack of parking in the community is an issue that has come up consistently in Design Review Committee meetings. Earlier this summer Councillor Lynda Chandler recommended that the committee brainstorm on solutions to this problem at its next meeting that was scheduled for mid-September. That meeting has yet to occur.

Despite concern over inadequate parking in the village, there was no move by council to revert to previous practice.

The annual tax bill facing the Legion is $5,144.60. The service organization has 320 members, more than 50 per cent of them Pemberton residents, and offers its facilities free of charge to other community groups and hosts regular fundraising events.

Carson also noted that the aging building is an ongoing financial drain for the Legion and having to pay taxes would constitute a hardship.

Myron Ayers, director and president of the Pemberton Lions, also made a presentation to the VOP council seeking a 2006 property tax exemption for the Lions’ Villa, an eight-unit seniors townhouse-style residence with an adjacent recreational facility. Taxes on the property are $6,517.86. The facility is the only assisted seniors facility in the Sea to Sky corridor north of Squamish.

"The Villa requires a great deal of upkeep," said Ayers, in his rationale for the exemption. "I think it would be more of a headache for the village to have to adopt the maintenance."

Accompanying Ayers was local senior Jim McDonald. While not a resident of the villa, McDonald takes advantage of the recreational facilities that he describes as being well used, with up to 14 people attending some classes.

After hearing the presentations, Councillor Mark Blundell made a motion to have the question of tax exemption put to voters in the form of a referendum during the upcoming municipal election. Blundell is also owner of the PVS, the business that had previously been responsible for the Legion’s taxes in exchange for use of its parking stalls.

The motion to take the issue to referendum was adopted unanimously by council. The referendum question details the total potential tax revenue both organizations would pay over a 10-year period, the maximum amount of time the VOP can grant a tax exemption.

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