Call it a curiosity, but records show the District of North Saanich has been granting the Town of Sidney a permissive tax exemption for a piece of property in North Saanich used as a fire hall for years.
According to North Saanich’s 2020 annual report, the Town of Sidney received an exemption of $9,392 for the Sidney-owned property at 1665 McTavish Rd., the address of Fire Hall No. 2 in North Saanich. According to BC Assessment, the fire station was built in 1983 and its assessed value as of July 1, 2021, was $1.578 million.
The value of the tax exemption received by Sidney has not changed much over the years. In 2015, it stood at $8,604.
Sidney Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble confirmed Sidney owns the McTavish Road property where North Saanich operates the fire hall.
“This property was owned by the former water district,” he said. “In 1952, the Town of Sidney was the first municipality to incorporate on the northern Peninsula and the first to run its own water system. When the Town of Sidney took over water distribution from the former water district, this land was turned over to the (municipality).”
Humble said North Saanich has never charged Sidney property taxes on this land and it will remain tax-exempt. “No money has accumulated as a result of the tax exemption,” he said. “No consideration is being given to selling this property.”
Erik Lambertson, North Saanich’s communications and engagement manager, said Sidney and North Saanich entered into a lease agreement with respect to the McTavish Fire Hall property in 1987. The lease is in effect until 2081, he said. “The lease agreement specifies that the tenant (the District) is required to pay the greater of 110 per cent of real property taxes levied on all real property owned by the Town of Sidney which is situated in North Saanich; or $25.”
Total exemptions by North Saanich in 2020 topped $168,650 to 17 organizations (including the Town of Sidney) along with five churches, the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, the Sidney and North Saanich Memorial Park Society and B.C. Aviation Museum.
The Town of Sidney is not the only municipal organization receiving a tax exemption from North Saanich. The Capital Regional District (CRD) received a tax exemption of $30,415 in 2020 for the property at 1717 McTavish Rd., the site of the McTavish Lower Reservoir. According to BC Assessment, its value as of July 1, 2021, was $4.505 million.
The exemption for the CRD was the single-largest exemption by North Saanich, followed by the BOKECEN XAXE (Sacred) Society of Pauquachin First Nation with $23,333 and the Sidney and North Saanich Memorial Park Society for two properties on McDonald Park Road totalling $19,693. BOKECEN XAXE (Sacred) Society had purchased 72 acres of woodlands and wetlands in the Dunsmuir lands once under the ownership of the University of Victoria in 2018.
Homewood Health acquired the remaining 28 acres of the lands along with a lodge.
Homewood Health has since opened a 75-bed residential treatment centre in the building, which lies not too far from the Sidney-owned property on which the North Saanich fire hall stands.
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