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Resort Communities making progress: O’Reilly

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Taxation issues, financial tools discussed at UBCM

It’s been one year since Mayor Hugh O’Reilly brought together representatives from six resort communities in B.C. and asked them to form an association with Whistler.

In a spirit of co-operation this group, which included Tofino, Fernie, Golden, Rossland, Invermere, Penticton and Whistler, formed the B.C. Resort Communities Association.

After only a year in the works, Mayor O’Reilly said he is pleased with the positive working relationship within the association.

"We’re trying to do a number of things," said O’Reilly after the association’s latest meeting at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in Vancouver last week.

"We want to share information, mentor, pass on best practices between ourselves.

"We’re trying to speak with a unified voice in the sense that we’re all communities that share commonalties."

A hot topic at the last meeting was the idea of creating a new tax classification for tourist accommodation.

Currently there is a debate among some property owners about whether their strata-titled condo-hotel properties falls into a Class 1 residential assessment or a Class 6 commercial assessment. The difference in tax rates is significant.

In the past property owners have been able to jump classes and as such get taxed at a different rate.

O’Reilly used the Westin as an example. At one point the Westin was taxed at a Class 6 rate but for one year it was taxed under a Class 1 rate because the parking spaces and commercial spaces were considered individual strata units.

"I think you’d have a hard time telling anybody that’s a residence," said O’Reilly.

"That’s our problem... we’ve had people jumping between classes."

To help get rid of this confusion, the association proposes to use the Class 3 assessment for certain tourist accommodation properties.

"The class is not being utilized so it’s really just renaming it and giving communities some discretion on how it would work best in their community," said O’Reilly.

He said it would be up to the communities on whether they would want Class 3 assessments taxed at a residential rate or a commercial rate. Another option is that they could blend the rates for Class 3.

"Our issue is that each community should be able to make that choice by putting (tourist accommodation properties) in a class, define them as a group that’s unique and different from residential or other commercial," said O’Reilly.

"Then you can set the tax mil rate at a rate which you feel is appropriate in your community and so there’s latitude on where that may go."

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