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Homeowners balk at Royal Bay property tax exemptions, Colwood councillor pushes back

‘You have to consider more than the property tax a project will generate:’ Coun. Gordie Logan
Colwood Coun. Gordie Logan in Royal Bay, near the future site of a seniors residence and the Royal B.C. Museum’s new collections and research building. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)

John English has had no response to a letter he sent Colwood council criticizing a property tax decision, but that might be because the retired government staffer isn’t on Twitter.

His letter, sent on behalf of the Royal Bay Homeowners Association, protested a move to exempt five acres of land in Royal Bay from paying property taxes. Such a move runs contrary to the city’s official community plan (OCP), English said, which notes that Colwood’s “relatively small commercial base” keeps a higher pressure on residential taxes.

The five acres in question will be used for a long-term care facility, managed by the Capital Regional Hospital District, on undeveloped land in Royal Bay at the corner of Metchosin Road and Latoria Boulevard. Also part of the master plan for Royal Bay is a collections and research building for the Royal B.C. Museum that has been granted a 10-year tax exemption.

English argued that giving tax breaks of this sort contradicts the OCP and amounts to reneging on election promises to grow the commercial sector.

When Colwood Coun. Gordie Logan saw the letter on July 11, he responded on Twitter. His nine-tweet thread climaxed at: “What the letter says to me is that our seniors don’t deserve to live in their community, that a seniors care facility isn’t needed on the Westshore.”

“I’m not going to be beaten over the head on this one,” he went on.

Logan admits the letter got under his skin. The plans are just so exciting, so exactly what the community has been dreaming of, he said.

“You have to consider more than the property tax a project will generate. The cultural value along with the increase of employment. Those things have value,” he said.

READ MORE: Design/build applications open for Royal B.C. Museum’s new Colwood facility

English hadn’t seen the Twitter thread – he doesn’t have an account – but was shocked to hear Logan’s interpretation.

“He’s imputing motives and beliefs,” English said. “We are not opposed elder care facilities.”

There are many ways to encourage seniors facilities in Colwood, he added, they just don’t have to be pulled from the tax base.

One idea he floated is a mixed-use building with commercial space on the ground floor and seniors living on the upper floors. It’s a few notches down from the bucolic village being proposed by the CRHD for seniors with dementia, but it would garner revenue for the city, he said.

It’s more than just these to tax breaks. English and the homeowners association have criticized the municipality’s decisions on several counts where taxes were at play.

Colwood had a protracted struggle with property tax rates this spring, where, in an effort to be more attractive to businesses it had dropped the business ratio so low that it risked increasing residential taxes by 9.3 per cent. They finagled the budget down to the deadline, finally bumping up the business tax ratio to make the residential tax increase five per cent.

English has extensive experience with government budgets from his career as a civil servant. Logan is a longtime Colwood councillor, but works in health care for his day job. He tends toward Twitter, while English still uses a double-space between sentences.

“If he wished to send me a note and share his thoughts, he has my email,” English said.

READ MORE: Colwood council gets back to work after voting against 9.3% property tax hike

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