Sliding centre exempt from property taxes 

Council yet to see business plan for not-for-profit operation

The 2010 bobsled/luge track will not be paying property taxes in 2008, a bill that totals more than $26,000.

Council approved the Olympic exemption for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games (VANOC) on Monday night but not without some concerns.

The Whistler Sliding Centre qualified for the exemption as a not-for-profit organization, much like the First Nations Cultural Centre, which got an $11,600 exemption, and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, with its $6,700 exemption.

“It is to me a little bit of a concern,” said Councillor Eckhard Zeidler.

While he recognizes that the luge track will be run by a non-profit organization after the Games, the Whistler Legacies Society (WLS), he has yet to see the business plan for the track.

In fact, council has not seen the much-anticipated business plans for the Whistler Sliding Centre, the Nordic centre or the Whistler Athletes’ Centre, all of which, according to Mayor Ken Melamed, were promised roughly one year ago.

“I’d sure like to see the business plans of these things,” said Zeidler.

While the venues will be owned and operated by the Whistler Legacies Society post-Games, VANOC, which is also a not-for-profit organization, currently owns all three.

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden also expressed concerns about the tax exemption and asked that any proposed exemptions for Olympic venues next year come back to the current council before the next election in November 2008.

This year, to streamline the process, council approved the tax exemption for places of worship and day cares for a five-year period. That includes the Whistler Children’s Centre ($3,117), the Spring Creek Children’s Centre ($3,964) and Our Lady of the Mountains Church ($27,900).

The non-for-profit exemption, however, will come before council on an annual basis for review.

After Monday’s meeting the mayor further explained some of council’s concerns around the exemption.

“We wanted to be equitable in terms of support,” he said. “We’re trying to wrap our minds around what’s profit, non-profit. They’ll be charging for use of the facility. Is the province going to forgo lease payments on the land? Is the federal government going to forgo GST? There are some questions that have been raised about it and there’s some concern on council so they chose to go year by year with that facility and frankly, the Squamish First Nations Cultural Centre as well.

“We need to more fully understand: what are the long-term implications, should the taxpayers be subsidizing, in effect, these facilities?” said the mayor. “I guess that’s essentially what it comes down to.”

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