Lawn bowling club says it needs tax exemption to survive

Eighty-two-year-old club says City of Abbotsford's proposed policy change jeopardizes its future.

The Jubilee Park Lawn Bowling Club’s 82-year history could come to an end if proposed changes to how the city hands out property tax exemptions go through, John Birchfield told council Monday.

The city is looking at crafting a new policy that will formalize which non-profit societies have to pay property taxes.

Several groups are set to be affected, including the lawn bowling club, which was exempted from paying $6,400 in property tax in 2016. Because the club leases its outbuilding and the park for just $10 a year, the new policy would see that exemption phased out over four years.

“The impact of this tax on us is going to be devastating,” said Birchfield, who was joined by several other club members at Monday afternoon’s council meeting. “The ultimate result of this taxation will ultimately dissolve the club.”

Birchfield pleaded with the city to meet with the club and find a solution.

“We hoped the bowling club would be around for future generations, but time will tell.

Mayor Henry Braun noted the that new policy is a work in process that attempts to clarify why some groups are exempted from paying tax. (Read staff’s report on the proposed policy here.)

He signaled that he’d hope a solution could be found that would allow the club to continue operating.

“Sometimes there are unintended consequences that at the time we were not aware of. I think this would fall under one of those.”

A similar request was made by Kent Bird, the manager of the Abbotsford Curling Club, which also has a non-market lease with the city and is set to see its exemption decrease from $12,200 to, after four years, just $3,700.

Bird also asked to meet with the city.

The new policy would base tax exemptions on the number of services or programs that would benefit residents of Abbotsford.

The group most affected would be the Mennonite Central Committee, which would see its $205,200 exemption in 2016 eventually cut in half. MCC’s Wayne Bremner also spoke to council and said that while he wasn’t complaining about the changes, he would like to further discuss how the group’s recycling and volunteering operations benefit Abbotsford residents.

The exemption, he told The News, “allows us to do a lot of good work in the area of homelessness.”

Braun suggested the development of the policy is a “learning process” for the city and welcomed the additional meetings. A follow-up report was requested for later in October, with a final decision on the new rules set to be made at a special council meeting on Oct. 31.

 

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