Pemberton's municipal taxes set to rise 4.61% 

Council briefs: Intergovernmental committee; Airbnb enforcement

click to enlarge Budget time Mayor Mike Richman (pictured here last week at an announcement of the federal government's investment into the community) and council decided to reduce a potential tax increase during a March 20 council meeting. photo by Joel barde
  • Budget time Mayor Mike Richman (pictured here last week at an announcement of the federal government's investment into the community) and council decided to reduce a potential tax increase during a March 20 council meeting. photo by Joel barde

The Village of Pemberton (VOP) Council landed on an estimated 4.61 per cent increase to municipal taxes this year at its March 20 council meeting. The percentage may change after a revised roll comes out from BC Assessment.

The tax increase will be used to pay for upgrades to the One Mile Lake boardwalk and a contractual project coordinator, who will work on transit and affordable housing initiatives.

Staff originally presented 9.3 per cent tax increase for consideration, which included an additional four per cent tax rise for additional road reserves, which would have brought in an additional $57,272 to the Village's road reserves.

In the end, council felt that increase was too high. Councillor Jennie Helmer said that such a hike would not be "fiscally responsible" and suggested the coordinator position be eliminated.

Coun. Ted Craddock and Mayor Mike Richman emphasized that it was an important position, with Craddock suggesting forgoing the addition to the road reserve, which Richman agreed with.

The mayor said that it was important to strike a balance. During the presentation Area C director Russell Mack offered grant funding of $25,000, in both 2018 and 2019, towards boardwalk repairs.

This allowed council to shuffle the budget and pay for both the upgrades and the coordinator position, but not the road reserve.

"A big focus of our budget is a low-operating budget. We've kept our operating budget very lean. When it comes to reserves, we're still being very aggressive," said Richman.

As in 2017, council still has a budgeted road reserve of $119,165. The VOP's 2018 budget will be fully adopted in April.

Intergovernmental Relations Committee representative

During its regular meeting, council appointed Mayor Richman to an Intergovernmental Relations Committee. The request came out the Nuk w7ántwal Regional Gathering, which was held on Feb. 23 in N'Quatqua.

The gathering is part of an effort to strengthen relationships between First Nations, the VOP and the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and develop better understanding of what reconciliation looks like.

According to Jill Brooksbank, communications and grants coordinator for the VOP, the committee will develop a set of terms of reference, work collectively on emergency preparedness projects, plan and host a celebration that includes food and food security, and draft an agreement of collaboration.  

The hope is to have first meeting this summer, she said, and meet three times before the end of March 2019.

Richman expressed excitement about the conference and what it's achieving in terms of reconciliation. "Every little break, I had some really great conversation," said Richman. "It's becoming easier and easier and comfortable — but there is lots of work to be done, for sure."

Coun. Ted Craddock, however, suggested that splitting off might not be wise, as some would be more involved than others. Brooksbank suggested that they would report back to council. Craddock also suggested that RCMP could also be incorporated into future proceedings.

There are no impacts on budget or staffing for the creation of the committee.

Once the committee has met and finalized the terms of reference, a review of the priorities established at the 2018 Nuk w7ántwal Regional Gathering may result in budget implications.

Airbnb enforcement

Sheena Fraser, the VOP's manager of corporate and legislative services, presented a report on short-term rental enforcement to council.

Fraser explained that staff has been enforcing and monitoring short-term rentals since 2015, and that they have chosen to use registered mail, so they can track when letters have or haven't been received

The Village has success getting stratas to comply, she said. Of 13 stratas in the VOP, five have brought in short-term rental rules in line with the VOPs, which effectively ban them in their zoning.

"I think it's a result of it being brought to their attention that nightly rentals are not allowed in the RT or the CD zones in our zoning bylaw," she said.

Right now, staff's only way to force compliance is through court proceedings, a costly and long endeavour.

A new set of bylaws is currently being developed and is expected to take effect in the summer after an open house on the draft bylaw earlier this year in April.

"We will have to have a fine schedule in the zoning bylaw," said Fraser. "Right now we have to go to court."

Staff also said that regulating Airbnb is taking a large amount of time from other resources and raised the possibility of the need for an additional position to help with enforcement.

Richman recognized the strain on staff.

But he said any discussion on bringing in new staff would have to wait until after the new rules are brought in.

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