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Nelson City Council meeting May 6: tax exemptions for community groups, new zoning rules, the politics of arts and culture, Hall St. improvement

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
May 7th, 2013

Hall St. Improvements: new consultant at public open house Thursday

Council has hired a consultant, the MMM Group, to develop the plans for the improvements to the Hall Street corridor. The consultant’s preliminary ideas for the project will be on display at a public open house on the second floor of city hall on Thursday, May 9 at 6:30.

         Related story: New Corridors to the Waterfront

Tax breaks for organizations 

Council passed a new policy on its permissive tax exemptions, which give a partial or full property tax break to non-profit organizations doing good work for the community.

Council grants these exemptions amounting to a maximum of 1% of the total city tax levy.

In the past there has been a lack of guiding principles for council to decide on the exemptions.  This has resulted in a cumbersome process and decisions that have appeared arbitrary or unfair.

The new policy approved by council yesterday tightens up the process by focussing on the actual use of the property, stating that only property used “to support all city residents, without discrimination, will be considered.”

Eligible organizations must provide “needed direct social and community services to city residents or arts, cultural, or recreational activities of demonstrable benefit to city residents….”

And they must be in alignment with the city’s sustainability plan and strategic direction.

In the past, council has given permissive tax exemptions to churches. One of the unstated purposes of the new policy is to give council the opportunity to deny applications from churches that provide services only to their own congregations.

The new policy is attached at the bottom of this article.

Related story: Tax breaks, skatepark changes, and more…

Arts and culture—what’s the city’s role?

What is culture in Nelson, and what is the relationship between the city and the cultural sector?

Over the past decade the city has grappled with those questions and has gradually embraced the idea that arts and culture are worth its attention because they are an economic boon to the city.

The Comprehensive Cultural Policy incorporates the work of the recently disbanded Heritage Commission and it outlines goals to support arts and culture through the city’s overall planning, investment, and infrastructure. The policy is attached below.

New zoning regulations

Nelson’s Land Use Regulation Bylaw (otherwise known as zoning bylaws) was last written in 1987 and is out-dated in light of newer plans such as the Official Community Plan and the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan.

Zoning bylaws regulate the use, size, and siting of land and buildings. They also control such things as parking, landscaping, and storm run-off.

Council agreed on Monday night to begin a comprehensive re-write of the Land Use Regulation Bylaw. City Planner Dave Wahn said he has already prepared a draft and will be working with the city’s Advisory Planning Commission on it.

Taxes Passed

Council passed its 2013 Tax Rate Bylaw, the result of many budget discussions over the past few months.

Related stories:

City to host budget open house: small tax increase for a balanced budget?

City budget: New money, new projects, uncertain wage settlements

All four city labour contracts up for negotiation this year

Small business accord

After a presentation by Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson, council signed on to the B.C. Small Business Accord,  a set of principles designed to foster business friendliness in municipalities. The details are attached below.

Categories: Politics

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