By David F. Rooney
A surge in new secondary suite licenses pushed the number of business licences in Revelstoke last month over the 1,000 mark.
The official list showed there were 1,017 business licenses in town. Twenty-one of the licenses were for secondary suites in existing homes.
City Hall has been encouraging homeowners who want to rent out secondary suites to obey the law and acquire a business licence. However, at least two of the families that have purchased licenses have serious questions.
“My concern is the fundamental unfairness of narrowly targeting secondary suites with this fee,” Ilya Storm wrote to City Council. “Specifically, only owners of houses with conforming secondary suites are assessed this new fee. People who own multiple houses in Revelstoke rent all but one of them without a similar license. Non-resident house owners rent out houses without a business license. Additionally, houses with non-conforming secondary suites escape this new fee. Fundamentally, these situations are identical: a property owner is earning income from their real estate asset through long-term rental. However the city is not treating them equally. This is inherently unfair.”
Louisa Dubasov had a similar concern in her letter to Council, with an additional wrinkle: “lt does not seen fair and equitable that one form of rental needs a license but not another. There are many rental homes that are basically run as boarding houses with all of the bedrooms rented out individually. ls this not a business? Now that we have businesses lícenses for our rental properties are we at some point going to be assessed taxes at the business rate? This possibility scares me.”
The letters were referred to City staff who are dealing with the issue but Mayor Mark McKee said during the regular Question Period at the conclusion of last Tuesday’s Council meeting that homeowners who have licenced secondary suites will not wake up one day to discovcer that their property has been assessed at a business tax rate.
Councillors Brother, Duke and Orlando all emphasized that the City must be seen to fair in its handling of people’s concerns.
In an unrelated business matter, Brady Beruschi asked City Council to “implement a minimum one-kilometre distance rule for all future beverage alcohol retailers in Revelstoke. This will help restrict liquor licenses for wine in grocery stores, protect small businesses and the people they employ, and provide necessary industry stabilization.”
In a letter sent to Council through Councillor Linda Nixon, Beruschi noted that Kamloops City Council recently “passed a motion to institute a one-kilometre distance rule for all future liquor licenses and retail stores, including Grocery Auctioned BC Wine Licenses. Currently Kelowna and Port Alberni are examining and possible bringing forward an amendment to their zoning bylaws regarding the one-kilometer rule.”
Revelstoke currently has four privately owned liquor stores plus the government-owned outlet. Beruschi is worried that a local grocery store could acquire one of the special wine licences the government intends to auction off through its Special Wine Store License Auction Act. “These licenses are not subject to the one-kilometre distance rule, meaning our community could have a shopping plaza, a BC Liquor Store and two private liquor stores within 1 kilometre of each other,” Beruschi wrote.
Councillor Connie Brothers asked that the City staff member who looks into Beruschi’s concerns also find out exactly how similar anxieties were dealt with in Kamloops and other cities.
Council also agreed to write a letter to the provincial government in support of the Revelstoke Adventure Park proposal.
Please activate the YouTube player below to watch last week’s City Council meeting in its entirety. I suggest that you skip the first delegation to appear before Council in this video unless you have an unusually sharp interest in the workings of BC Assessment. The presentation goes on for over 30 minutes.
Council discusses the letters from Ilya Storm and Louisa Dubasov at the 1:47:25 mark on the video below. Brady Beruschi’s letter is dealt with immediately after that and the Adventure Park proposal immediately after that.
By David F. Rooney