The revitalization tax exemption bylaw has been made one of council’s priorities for the next year after councillor Tony Scarcella led a push to have it included.
“We have to attract business to town and it should be on this plan that we’re open for business,” he said during the Apr. 22 council meeting. “This tax break should be on there. It’s not something we should hide. If someone wants to invest their money and come to Revelstoke, they should know we’re open for business.”
Council was discussing the goals and objectives it set out during a closed-door workshop in March when Scarcella made his remarks.
The objectives include four overarching measures: to safeguard infrastructure through effective long-term strategies, to determine core and non-core service levels, and to improve the Revelstoke experience through better customer service, communication and growth.
But Scarcella wasn’t content with a bullet point under the last one that called for council to “continue initiatives that contribute to economic growth and stability and to improving the quality of life in the community.”
“Businesses will want to know we’re open for business. All businesses are looking for a break. They don’t just come because it’s Revelstoke, they want something back,” he said. “They want to know there’s the possibility of tax breaks they can work with.”
He asked that the revitalization tax break bylaw be specifically pursued. Couns. Linda Nixon, Chris Johnston, Gary Starling and Steve Bender all sided with Scarcella.
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 earlier this year 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 bylaw was discussed at the March workshop, but council did not get into specifics, Mayor David Raven told the Times Review.
At council, Johnston proposed that a workshop be scheduled to specifically discuss the bylaw — a motion that was supported by council, though Mayor Raven made a vague comment that council could be treading into controversial territory.
In a follow-up interview, Raven expressed his thoughts on the revitalization bylaw. He said a number of questions need to be addressed for council to move forward, such as what businesses could be eligible (commercial, industrial, or all), if it would be for a certain area of town or the entire city, and if it would apply to new businesses, old businesses, or both.
“Council still has a number of questions,” he said. “Although they’re not opposed to it — and most of them tend to favour it — they have to resolve questions around fairness and how it may be applied.”
A council workshop will also be set for council to discuss core and non-core levels of service.