Offering tax incentives to future investors at Pemberton’s industrial park would be a good way to show that council encourages business development in the community, village lawmakers resolved at their Tuesday (Sept. 18) meeting.
Council told staff to work on a bylaw that would provide tax exemptions in phased increments to any new investment in the industrial park and independent school site through 2015. While the savings wouldn’t be huge for potential businesses, multiple council members said they thought the move would send the message that they support growth in the business sector.
“We’ve been fighting a battle about the perception of whether or not we’re encouraging business,” said Mayor Jordan Sturdy, adding that the message it would send “is as important as anything.”
The tax exemption would cover a five-year period for new developments, waiving all municipal taxes in the first two years and 25 per cent less each following year. In his report to council, chief administrative officer Daniel Sailland said “an average range of building type” going into an industrial park lot would be taxed about $2,500 annually.
Coun. Ted Craddock voted against the motion, saying he’d “be a little bit cautious” in pursuing a bylaw until council investigated the idea further.
“I want to support any business in this community, but I don’t think this is the right way to go about it right now,” he said.
In a related move, council unanimously supported a staff recommendation to talk with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) about “industrial businesses within the Pemberton fringe” that could be in violation of Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) policies, zoning and flood construction levels. Sturdy said he thought some of those businesses weren’t being taxed properly, either, presenting further advantages over building in the industrial park.
Sailland’s report said it would be “challenging” for the village to “truly assess the validity of any tax incentive initiative without also verifying and addressing the inequities, perceived or real, that exist within the Pemberton fringe.”
The administrator told council it would be worth working with the SLRD in response to complaints of violations outside the village boundary and within the ALR, and going together to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) with any concerns, if necessary.
“For now, it’s just to see if there is legitimacy to the complaints,” said Sailland.
Sturdy made an amendment to the recommendation that stipulated no formal complaint be made to the ALC until village and SLRD staff find it appropriate.
Chicken bylaw requested
Should Pemberton residents be allowed to keep chickens in their backyards? Council will be answering that question in a future meeting, but not until the New Year.
Council received a letter Tuesday from local resident Dawn Johnson, who said she’d like to keep chickens “in a responsible and law-abiding fashion.” With eight other residents’ names signed in support, the letter asked council to consider a bylaw allowing chickens for personal use.
Sturdy said he has “been approached a number of times” by constituents on the issue.
“I was trying to resist going down that road, to be quite honest. I think it gets blown out of proportion in a lot of ways,” said Sturdy. “I would just hope people could keep animals in a reasonable way and not affect their neighbours, but it seems to be a real lightning rod for complaints.”
Sturdy said the village has received formal complaints about people keeping chickens. The backyard birds have been a hot topic in Squamish, too, with its council voting 4-3 earlier this month to ban them from residential properties.
A draft bylaw is on the back burner for the time being. Later Tuesday in its committee of the whole session, council directed staff to focus on other priorities and bring the chicken charter around in 2013.
Rec study contract awarded
The recreation feasibility study being jointly pursued by the village and Lil’wat Nation has been contracted to Canlan Ice Sports Corp., Sturdy announced Tuesday.
The mayor said “there were quite a few” bidders but it was an unanimous decision to award the contract to Canlan, which describes itself as “North America’s leading owner/operator of multi-purpose recreational and entertainment facilities” on its website.
The study, which will advise on the best strategy to bring an arena, pool or other major recreation site to the Pemberton Valley, is due before the end of October.