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Revelstoke council moves ahead with revitalization tax break bylaw

Despite a staff report that highlighted many of the downsides of creating a revitalization tax break bylaw, city council opted to move forward with the concept.

The decision came at their Jan. 28 meeting, where city councillors opted to hold a Mar. 11 workshop to explore the idea.

The revitalization bylaw would grant temporary tax breaks to business owners who make improvements to their properties; the idea is to offset tax increases that come with higher property assessments after improvements.

If done correctly, the bylaw can be a tool to revitalize targeted neighborhoods and can actually increase tax revenues long-term.

But a staff report highlighted downsides, saying creating the plan can be costly, and if it isn’t in sync with planning objectives, it is subject to the law of unintended consequences, such as tax revenue loss from an ill-conceived bylaw.

The proposed bylaw is permitted under the Community Charter. The discussion of the bylaw was prompted by a request for tax relief from the Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. Brewer owners want to build a new brewery in Revelstoke, but say current taxation levels make it prohibitively costly. In late 2013, company president Bart Larson asked for tax relief in general, not this bylaw specifically.

Council had mixed discussion about the staff report.

“It’s really important that we get this right,” said Coun. Gary Starling, noting the downsides of a poorly conceived bylaw. “It could potentially sway the balance of taxation towards residential.”

Coun. Phil Welock also said the plan needed to be studied. “To do this we need the support of the community, especially the business community, and I think it is there.”

Mayor David Raven added to the chorus advocating for proceeding cautiously.

“There is a real need to be fair, just, equitable and clear,” the mayor said. “We have to be really careful as to how we step into this one.”

Coun. Tony Scarcella presented a different vision, saying it was appropriate to move forward with a limited bylaw that targeted the brewery’s proposed new location next to the Revelstoke Railway Museum.

“I think just now we should concentrate on that property,” Scarcella said.

He argued that the empty lot brings in little tax revenue, and a developed property would bring in many times more, effectively paying back the city for any tax concession within five years.

***

Update, Feb. 4: In Feb. 4 media release, city officials indicated they plan to hold an information session on Mar. 11, not Feb. 11 as previously indicated.

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