When Western Forest Products shut down the Woodfibre pulp mill in 2006, the District of Squamish lost something like $1.7 million in property taxes, not to mention 325 good-paying jobs. The loss of Squamish’s last major industrial employer was undoubtedly a blow to the community’s economy.
However, district officials have set about the difficult task of revitalization — mostly through efforts to ensure that the town retains its current employment base while helping existing businesses grow. And that is as it should be. But Coun. Ron Sander is right: It’s also important that we redouble efforts to attract new employers, whether they be in the forestry, marine, knowledge, tech or other industries.
There’s an interplay between commercial/industrial taxes and recreational infrastructure. Long story short, communities that have a sufficient base of commercial/industrial taxes — businesses are taxed at three to five times the rate of residential property owners — generally can afford state-of-the-art amenities including field lighting, turf, new fitness gyms and the like; those that don’t have a tougher time affording them.
It’s clear to us that since the closure of Woodfibre, Squamish has become a have-not community in that regard. So our leaders have to be judicious with the limited tax dollars they have. We get that.
It makes sense, though, to add a fitness gym to Brennan Park because, according to projections, admission fees from such a gym will pay for it in about five years — six or seven if reality falls a bit shy of those projections. As for the fortunes of existing private gyms, most communities that have a public pool also have a fitness gym attached; this step has been talked about in Squamish for quite a while. Private gym owners will just have to get creative with the services they offer and their marketing.
This writer also understands the hesitation of some to OK the turf field now rather than later. No one wants to have to borrow $400,000 to $700,000 for such a project. However, the recently secured $500K B.C. government grant comes with a March 31, 2015, completion deadline, and the price is only going to rise. Do we really think District of Squamish finances will improve sufficiently to make the project more feasible by, say, 2014 than it is now?
— David Burke