Municipal hall

Squamish council must be transparent about the municipal hall lease

It seems prudent to conclude that the rental of a municipal hall is an objective for the current council. However, I believe there are other broader alternatives that should be explored before signing a lease. There are many serious issues that squamish ratepayers need to be aware of before signing any lease.

A significant concern for a municipal hall lease is the impact on personal property taxes and business taxes. I understand from the information provided by the District that through the proposed lease:

• Property taxes will increase by 2.4% from the current rate

• The business tax is deemed to be 2.5 times higher, i.e. an increase of 6%

• A commercial lease, such as that contemplated by the District, can be expected to include a triple net clause

• This could well lead to a vicious cycle of our taxes increasing annually as triple net costs increase accordingly

Mayor Elliott, much of this hiring process appears to have been done in secret. For something as large and impactful as a twenty to forty year lease, taxpayers should expect and insist on complete transparency. Considering such a lease in the last months of this Council’s mandate is inappropriate. Squamish deserves better.

It seems clear that the District of Squamish would have a distinct advantage in seriously considering working with another party, such as the school district, to create a partnership for a new structure with shared facilities, thereby reducing the cost to ratepayers, while increasing its efficiency.

I fear that the board has been less than proactive in seeking collaboration with the school district.

• I would like to see the mayor and council direct staff to suspend all lease discussions for more than eight months, signaling to the school board that the district is serious about working with them

• I would like DOS and SD48 to quickly hire a mutually agreed independent and qualified consultant

• Through open discussions – where obstacles are seen as opportunities and agendas are pushed aside – develop an understanding of common and unique facility needs for everyone, making it easier to plan the necessary infrastructure

• Therefore, create an approach where all common building, heating, plumbing and lighting costs would be shared, reducing the impact on ratepayers

• Further explore the inclusion of necessary community amenities such as future public library needs, theatre, art gallery space, rented community gathering/café space – a community hub

• Consider initiatives to further reduce the cost to taxpayers with potential partnerships with provincial/federal governments such as provincial courthouses, provincial or federal government department offices and the prospect of “Air Rights” partnerships Mayor Elliott , I understand that you and the council are in a difficult situation, with the need to replace or upgrade many important community facilities. I am concerned, however, about the timing of reviewing all of this – at the end of this council’s term.

I believe we would all be best served by working with community partners to thoroughly and openly explore a wide range of options. This approach has the potential to save taxpayers money and create multi-purpose community facilities. Squamish has a long and proud history of working together to achieve community benefits.

Please continue this tradition.

Bob Brant has lived in Squamish since 1979. He is a long-time volunteer with several community organizations. Some examples include being a co-founder of the Squamish Trails Society and past president for nineteen years. He was Director of the Squamish Chamber of Commerce for two terms and Sponsorship Coordinator for the Bob McIntosh Triathlon for four years. Additionally, Bob was recognized as the Squamish Citizen of the Year in 2003.