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Canmore tax policy task force re-established to help with livability

“The last tax task force was appointed by council and I think it’s really important in our roles as elected officials that we’re the ones appointing the members of the task force."
Canmore Civic Centre 2
Canmore Civic Centre on Thursday (April 21). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – The Town of Canmore is looking to create a tax policy task force to investigate tax options to incentivize long-term use of housing rentals and purpose-built rentals.

Canmore council approved the terms of reference for the livability tax policy task force on Tuesday (Sept. 5), which will review the municipality’s tax policies, and also includes a goal of developing a plan to remove the tourist home designation.

“I think tax policy is an area we should be exploring to achieve some of the outcomes and objectives we have as a council and a community to address some of these issues,” said Coun. Tanya Foubert.

“Some of the work done by the previous (2012) tax task force was very valuable and I’m really grateful we’re moving ahead on this. … I think the work coming out of this task force will in a general sense help our community understand better what we can and can’t do, what levers we can’t pull.”

Under the existing timeline, an initial meeting will take place in either September or October, with further meetings taking place through December. A report and recommendations would aim to return to council before the end of the year.

Once created, the task force will work with stakeholders and review potential tax policies for the municipality.

Town staff will return for a special council meeting Sept. 19 with suggestions on potential members for the task force. Mayor Sean Krausert, Couns. Wade Graham and Joanna McCallum have been selected to represent council.

“I think there’s been a real will, want and wish in our community to understand the interplay between short-term rentals and how they do or do not impact livability in our community,” said McCallum, who was a member of the previous 2012 tax task force and frequently raised its importance during the previous budget talks.

“I believe several of us campaigned on this. …  I think this is an excellent step forward.”

In addition to three council members, other appointments will include one member from Tourism Canmore Kananaskis, one local developer representing tourist and visitor homes, one representative from Canmore Community Housing, a person from a Canmore rental and property management company and one individual from the local real estate industry who has experience selling tourist and visitor homes.

Town CAO Sally Caudill, general manager of municipal infrastructure Whitney Smithers, and general manager of corporate services Therese Rogers will support the task force, with other staff brought in as needed.

Rogers said in working with Verum Consulting, it was determined due to the complex nature, that expertise in the field would be needed from potential task force members.

While the Bow Valley Builders and Developers Association (BOWDA) wouldn’t have a specific task force spot as in 2012, both Rogers and Caudill said they’d expect a BOWDA member to take another pre-determined spot.

Rogers said the goal for having recommendations for council by the end of the year was due to tourist homeowners declaring the type of use for the upcoming year by the end of January.

“Our goal is to have some policy first to implement around tourist homes," she said. "We’re hopeful if we can advance that, we can get that information out for that end of January deadline, otherwise, we really lose the whole year and wouldn’t be able to action anything there until January 2025."

In the past, there have been roughly 600 tourist homes in Canmore, with slightly more than 100 declared for personal use – meaning it wasn’t for commercial intent.

However, the Smith Creek and Three Sisters Village area structure plans – which are legally approved by the Land and Property Rights Tribunal (LPRT) – could have between 900-1,300 tourist homes. Aspects of the LPRT’s decisions are before the Court of Appeal, with a court decision anticipated this fall.

Town staff submitted its application for the federal government’s housing accelerator fund in August after council approved it in June and are anticipating hearing about potential funding from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation this fall. However, Rogers said regardless of the funding received, any recommendations could be moved forward by council.

The report recommended Town staff select the task force, but a successful motion by Foubert means the final selection will return for council direction. However town staff didn’t recommend this because of concerns that may delay the process.

The 2012 task force was appointed by council at its annual organization meeting that is held each October.

“The last tax task force was appointed by council and I think it’s really important in our roles as elected officials that we’re the ones appointing the members of the task force,” Foubert said. “However, in light of the desire to move forward on this quickly, I don’t necessarily think we need an application process. I think we could do a recruitment process.”

Caudill said Town staff had yet to reach out to organizations for potential membership on the task force, meaning it would be difficult to say if they could come back to council for the Sept. 19 because that would be dependent on other people’s timelines.

The previous task force had members of the community, the development sector, council members and local business owners, with meetings facilitated by a consultant. Krausert, McCallum and former Mayor John Borrowman were on it as well as Victor Zamlotni, Barbara Shumsky, Todd Stokowski, Guy Turcotte, Ron Remple and Peter McKeown.

The work from the task force will look to update and revise tax policy focusing on the three goals that will return with recommendations for council. It would also review legislation to see what the municipality could legally do with tax requirements.

Since the last tax policy was created, Canmore has seen significant commercial and residential growth. Second homeownership has also boomed and council has previously approved increasing property tax rates for tourist homes used commercially to align with the non-residential mill rate.

The staff report highlighted that council direction would have Town staff look to see if land use changes could aid in adding additional housing. An update is expected to return to council at a later date.

“The challenges we face and some of the tools we need to employ to make a significant difference are at our fingertips and I’m looking forward to see what this task force comes up with,” said Coun. Wade Graham. “It will be momentous.”

CORRECTION: The original article stated the housing accelerator fund application was made in June, where it was approved by council in June and the application was made in August. A sentence also stated the task force could update and revise the 2013 tax policy framework, but the two task forces are separate from one another. The Outlook apologizes for any confusion.

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