New legislation will not solve condo-hotel tax issue 

Despite promises to the contrary, the new provincial Community Charter Act will not cut through red tape surrounding Whistler's condo-hotel tax woes.

"That issue is outside of the charter," said West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Ted Nebbeling.

The Act, which falls under the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Affairs, is aimed at giving municipalities greater autonomy and better planning tools to reduce reliance on property taxes.

According to Nebbeling, the minister of state for community charter, the B.C. Assessment Authority is currently looking at the condo-tax hotel issue.

But a representative from B.C. Assessment said the Ministry of Sustainable Resources Management is responsible for the issue.

"The ministry has looked at it in great depth," said Calvin Smyth, the Whistler area's property assessor. "But I haven't heard anything at all for the last two months.

"I was hoping a decision would be in place for 2002," Smyth told Pique Newsmagazine.

A decision would have to be made before Dec. 31, 2001 for it to be effective during the 2002 fiscal year.

According to Nebbeling, a decision on the issue will be made sometime soon.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs handled the condo-hotel tax issue until the Liberal government revamped ministry responsibilities following their election in May.

The controversial and complex issue started two years ago when four Whistler condo-hotels used a loophole to re-classify their rooms as residential units rather than commercial.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler was looking at a loss of $450,000 in property tax revenues.

Condo-hotels are taxed on the re-sale value of each individual unit, not earned income like regular hotels.

The B.C. Assessment Authority overturned one of the hotel's classifications but units in the three other hotels remain classified as residential, representing a $280,000 tax shortfall.

The RMOW has not budgeted for any further condo-hotels changing from commercial to residential classifications.

But at least two more hotels have since re-classified their units as residential, thus creating even less tax revenue for the municipality.

Meanwhile, Nebbeling said his government has committed to make Crown corporations subject to local property taxes.

But according to Nebbeling, local governments should not have to depend on expanding their tax base through development to generate more revenue.

"A lot of projects have gone sideways and a lot of opportunities were missed because of red tape," he said. "Ultimately we hope local governments will use different tools to tap into financial benefits."

The B.C. Assessment Authority is currently wrestling with a similar tax issue regarding home-based businesses, which includes bed and breakfasts.

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