The Columbia Shuswap Regional District board of directors defeated an attempt to change the tax structure for owners of waterfront property in the Shuswap.
The board received a letter from the Shuswap Waterfront Owners Association (SWOA) stating they felt their properties were being double-taxed because CSRD parcel taxes are applied to both their waterfront property and to the area of foreshore commonly used for docks that they lease from the provincial government.
In response to the letter from the SWOA and other inquiries about the taxation issue, Jodi Pierce, CSRD’s financial services manager, sent a memo to the board outlining reasons why directors should not change the parcel tax bylaws.
Pierce’s reasons included the administrative burden of amending the bylaws, unintended consequences such as making marinas exempt from parcel taxes and alienating taxpayers who hold Crown leases other than on the lakeshore.
“There is no easy way to determine which foreshore leases are held by adjacent upland owners short of looking individually at each and every foreshore parcel along any waterway within the CSRD. This would require significant additional resources,” the memo says.
Electoral Area F director Larry Morgan, a waterfront property owner himself, argued in favour of re-examining the tax bylaws.
Chairperson Rhona Martin called a brief recess to discuss the effect of Morgan’s property ownership with CSRD staff and found he had “interest in common” but not a conflict of interest.
“I don’t think this has been thoroughly addressed, the memo is extremely defensive and dismissive of the real issue here,” Morgan said.
He said the foreshore parcel of land leased from the B.C. government is subordinate to the waterfront property and so the two should be taxed together.
Director Chad Eliason pointed out that the option exists to own the waterfront property without leasing the foreshore from the government.
“I’m not going to agree, I think that this is a separate parcel. It’s unfortunate that B.C. assessment has not been assessing it in this manner since people negotiated their leases, but it is a separate piece of property,” Martin said.
Martin added there are regions of the CSRD where property owners pay parcel tax and have no access to the lake.
“If the foreshore leases are to be excluded then that would mean that every other parcel would have to have an increase in their taxes. I think that would be unfair,” she said.
Eliason added that by the same logic as exempting foreshore leases from parcel taxation, there is a case to be made for the exemption of leased agricultural and forestry land as well. He noted the total additional tax burden is $26 per year for each foreshore property.
Morgan introduced a motion to defer the decision pending the gathering of more information. But the motion was not supported by the other directors and was defeated.