The owners of a longtime Robson Street business are hoping their mind-boggling property tax bill will become an election issue.
Karen and Jane Tennant, owners of Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware, are encouraging people to attend a mayoral candidate forum at the St Andrews-Wesley United Church in Vancouver’s West End on Tuesday.
The co-owners don’t think they can survive in their current location with a property tax bill of $545,000 for 2018. They are hoping that by putting pressure on the Vancouver mayoral candidates, the rules may amended.
“It has never been our goal to stand in the way of change but we feel we should not be forced to pay for it,” reads the update. “Due to rezoning our property tax has increased 400% from what it was two years ago which is totally unaffordable. We the tenants are obligated to pay the tax on behalf of the property owner with zero benefit to ourselves.”
“So many businesses are in the same vulnerable position. It is an unfair system and it needs changing.”
The land the shop sits on at Robson and Cardero has been up-zoned as part of the West End Community Plan, meaning much of the area will be turned into residential towers. The owners are asking mayoral candidates to change the policy so that the City of Vancouver taxes future residential land at current commercial tax rates.
“We have gotten nowhere with the current Mayor and council. The letter we wrote specifically to Mayor Robertson has gone unanswered. We are disillusioned by the lack of response,” reads the letter. “We’re sure you’re all aware of the impending municipal election. Many candidates have stated that small business is an important part of the city. With the mayoral race so close it will be interesting to see what the candidates support for small business will be.”
Tuesday’s mayoral forum will include candidates Ken Sim, Hector Bremner, Shauna Sylvester and Kennedy Stewart, It will be broadcast live on the Global BC Facebook page and the Global BC websit:e from 7 until 9 p.m.
Sylvester has visited Chocolate Mousse and met with the owners about the issue. The independent mayoral candidate says if she was elected mayor she would
“It is very concerning. We have within the assessment authority one category for all businesses: commercial. So the Amazons are right next to that little Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware store. What I am trying to do is to create a new subcategory in the assessment role that is for small, local businesses,” said Sylvester. “We could charge them less.”
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Sylvester says there are hundreds of buildings in the city that “are being decimated by the property tax.”
“As a consequence you are seeing them close, one after another, and then the only businesses that can move in there are the big franchise stores,” said Sylvester.
In one of his small businesses, says NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim, they pay just as much in property taxes as they do in rent. Sim says the root cause of this is overspending at city hall and that needs to be addressed.
“It is a big problem,” said Sim. “If we don’t solve it, we are going to have a gutting of our city and we will lose all our independent businesses in the next 12 to 18 months. The first thing we have to do is stop the bleeding. We have to grandfather people in at their current rates so they don’t see future, irrational increases.”
Editor’s note: Tuesday’s debate will be moderated by Global’s Richard Zussman