Masons’ exemption rejected

Argument was made back then that the temple is not open to everyone and therefore doesn’t meet the city’s criteria

The city is giving property tax exemptions to 75 community groups next year but a couple of city councillors were concerned Monday about who was left out of the tax breaks.

While several organizations, including local churches, are given the tax exemptions each year, seven new applications were considered for 2016.

All together, at its Monday night meeting, council approved 75 permissive tax exemptions totalling $755,901 of which $406,263 is provided by the city and $349,638 is provided by the other local taxing authorities such as the school district, hospital district and regional district.

Each of the organizations receiving the tax breaks was vetted by the city’s Community Partnership Committee which is tasked with determining whether or not the non-profits meet the city’s criteria for an exemption on paying property taxes.

Of the seven new applicants this year, one – the Campbell River Masonic Temple Association – was turned down.

Coun. Ron Kerr wanted to know why.

“Have they received an exemption in the past?” Kerr asked. “Especially considering the work they do for the public with the cancer car which is a really valuable service to the community.”

Lesia Davis, chair of the Community Partnership Committee, said the Masonic Temple Association applied about five years ago and the same argument was made back then that the temple is not open to everyone and therefore doesn’t meet the city’s criteria.

“We did discuss the car, we don’t know if it’s a direct service of the Masonic Hall or someone else,” Davis said. “We felt with the information we had, the membership was restricted to the Masonic members. For instance, if you go into the John Howard Society you could have a meeting there if you weren’t a member, whereas at the Masonic Hall, you couldn’t have a meeting there if you’re not a member.

“It was a struggle. We went around the table a couple of times because of it,” Davis added. “At the end of the day, we felt in fairness to the criteria, to make the recommendation we have.”

But Coun. Charlie Cornfield said the Masonic Hall should still be included.

“Four organizations use the hall, including Job’s Daughters (as well as the Campbell River Shrine Club, Chas Maria Order of the Eastern Star and the Freemasons), which people choose to participate in by choice as they do the John Howard Society, as they do with various organizations that are on the list for property tax exemptions,” said Cornfield, who then proceeded to make a motion to add the Masonic Temple Association to the list of organizations receiving the tax break.

His motion, however, was defeated by council.

Coun. Larry Samson said he trusts Davis and the rest of the Community Partnership Committee members came up with the right recommendations.

“I believe this committee does an excellent job, they’ve gone over all the facts and they believe at this time it doesn’t fit the criteria and council’s policy,” Samson said.

Mayor Andy Adams wanted to focus on the positive.

“Seventy-five groups, totalling $755,901 of which $406,000 is coming from the city,” Adams said. “This is a significant investment in organizations that provide services to our community.”