Tax exemptions to change for three Summerland churches

Churches with land deemed in excess will be affected by Summerland council decision

Three Summerland churches will continue to receive permissive tax exemptions for the excess land on their properties, but amount of the exemption will decrease in the coming years.

The tax exemptions were discussed at a special council meeting on Sept. 6.

The churches affected are Julia Street Community Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church and Summerland Alliance Church. Each of these churches has lands deemed in excess of their needs.

Churches and other places of worship in Summerland receive tax exemptions from the municipality.

The site of the church building receives a 100 per cent statutory tax exemption and the lands immediately surrounding the church, and used for church functions, receive a 100 per cent permissive tax exemption. These lands include the churches’ parking lots.

At present, these excess lands receive a 70 per cent permissive tax exemption, while the church buildings and parking areas receive 100 per cent exemptions.

Council members have expressed concerns about unused land within the community.

“There are banks of land that could benefit the community,” said Coun. Janet Peake.

“There’s a lot of land out there doing nothing,” said Coun. Doug Holmes.

However, rather than remove the permissive tax exemptions entirely, Holmes suggested a graduated method, easing the financial burden on the churches.

For the 2019 year, the exemption on the excess portions of land will remain at the present level of 70 per cent. The following year, it will decrease to 50 per cent and in 2021, it will further decrease to 25 per cent.

The motion was carried unanimously.

The 70 per cent permissive tax exemptions have financial implications for the churches. If these exemptions were removed entirely, Julia Street Community Church would pay an additional $665.31 based on this year’s assessed values and tax rates, while St. John’s Lutheran Church would see its taxes increase by $806.52. The Summerland Alliance Church, with considerably more land, would see its taxes rise by $4,511.88.

The Julia Street Community Church property is 0.5 hectares, with 0.13 hectares deemed as in excess.

From 1989 to 1993, the church purchased four neighbouring properties with the intent of building a complex on the site. The church has considered low income housing or a gymnasium for the community on the property.

The land is not within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The St. John’s Lutheran Church property is 0.89 hectares, with 0.19 hectares deemed in excess.

There are no formal plans for this property.

The Summerland Alliance Church has two parcels of land, for a total of 1.58 hectares.

The smaller parcel, is 0.18 hectares, which is deemed in excess. The larger parcel is 1.4 hectares, with 0.69 hectares deemed in excess. This larger parcel includes the church and the parking area.

The church is planning to develop 19 units of affordable housing on the smaller property. A development application on this plan is expected to come to council later this month.

While this parcel is within the Agricultural Land Reserve, the Agricultural Land Commission has provided an exemption which will allow the church to proceed with the development.

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