The District of 100 Mile has once again denied a permissive tax exemption request by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 260 because its primary function is a bar.
In a letter to council, Legion president Joni Guenther had sought a tax exemption for the property at 933 Alder Ave., saying they have faced “financial difficulties and various other problems in reopening” their facility, paying staff and supporting the community. In 2022, the value of the property was assessed at $326,100 while the Legion’s property tax was $5,222.26.
Her request was bolstered by letters of support from the 2887 Canadian Army Cadet Corp./Regional Cadet Support Unit (Pacific), Caitlin Currie, principal of Peter Skene Ogden Secondary, Lori Fry, of the White Cane Club, and Patsy Granberg, of the Parkside Gallery.
“Even though we operate a social lounge, all proceeds after expenses, are committed to assisting the community,” Guenther said in her letter. “We are a not-for-profit facility.”
A staff report noted that under Division 7 Section 224 of the Community Charter council may make a property tax-exempt if it is owned by a charitable or philanthropic organization or if council considers the property to be used for such a purpose.
However, Coun. Ralph Fossum made the motion to deny the tax exemption, noting the Legion has made the request several times over the past few years.
“To deny a request from the Legion is not a comment, a criticism or disrespect on the valuable services provided by the Legion,” he said. “It has to do with the use of the land. The primary use of the property is a bar, which puts it in conflict with other businesses that likewise serve alcohol and pay taxes.”
Coun. Donna Barnett noted she “did her homework” and found that other Legions are tax-exempt. She added the basis for denying the Legion tax exemption stems from a 2003 court case and suggested staff find out if that case is still in effect.
Mayor Maureen Pinkney said that even if the law has changed, the community’s own standards would need to be waived. She added there are other ways for the Legion to offset their taxes, such as applying for grant funding.
Fossum acknowledged that local Legions such as Forest Grove have been successful in receiving tax exemption status. He said Forest Grove does not directly compete with bars like 100 Mile’s Legion.
“I would submit that the Legion in Forest Grove is a rallying point for the community and not in competition with any other liquor facilities,” Fossum said. “In town, it’s a different story.”