June 28, 2022
To Mayor & Council-


It seems safe to conclude that leasing a municipal hall is a goal for you and the current Council.
I believe that broader alternatives must be explored before a lease is signed.
There are many serious issues that Squamish taxpayers need to be made aware of before any lease is signed.

(Please see the addendum below for concerns).
A significant concern for a municipal hall lease is the impact on personal property and business taxes. It is my understanding, from the District information provided, that through the proposed lease:

  • Personal property taxes will increase by 2.4% over the existing rate.
  • The business taxes is reputed to be 2.5 times that, or a 6% increase.
  • It can be expected that a commercial lease, such as the district is considering, will include a triple net clause.
  • That may well lead to a vicious cycle of our taxes increasing annually as the triple net costs increase as a result.
  • Important and impactful as a 20 to 40 year lease, taxpayers should expect and insist on complete transparency. Considering such a lease in the final months of this Council’s term is inappropriate.

Squamish deserves better.
It seems clear that there would be a distinct benefit for the District of Squamish to seriously consider working with another party, such as the school district, to craft a partnership for a new structure with shared facilities; thus lowering the cost to taxpayers, while increasing its effectiveness. I am concerned that Council has been far from proactive in seeking collaboration with the school district.

  • I would like to see the mayor and Council direct staff to park any lease discussions for 8+ months, indicating to the school board the district is serious about working with them • I would like to see the DOS and SD48 promptly hire a mutually agreed upon, independent and qualified consultant
  • Through open discussions – where obstacles are seen as opportunities and agendas are set aside – develop an understanding of standard and unique facility needs for each, facilitating planning of the infrastructure needed
  • Therefore, creating an approach where the overall standard building, heating, plumbing, and lighting costs would be shared, decreasing the impact on taxpayers
  • Further explore the inclusion of needed community amenities such as public library future needs, theatre, art gallery space, a community gathering/leased coffee space – a community hub
  • Consider initiatives to further lower the cost to taxpayers with potential partnerships with provincial/federal governments such as the regional courthouse, offices for local or federal ministries and the prospect of ‘Air Rights’ partnerships.

Mayor Elliott, I appreciate you and Council are in a challenging situation with the need to replace or upgrade many important community facilities. I’m concerned, however, about the timing in considering all these – at the end of this Council’s term.


I believe we all would be better served by working with community partners to thoroughly and openly investigate a broad array of options. This approach has the potential to save taxpayer dollars and create a multi-use community facility. Squamish has a long, proud history of working together to achieve community benefits. Please, let’s continue that tradition.

Regards,
Bob Brant



CC – Mayor & Council, Trustees/SD48, Board/Squamish Chamber/ Board/Downtown BIA, Squamish media

Addendum

Beyond tax concerns there are several issues that should be openly addressed and inclusively discussed by Council with Squamish taxpayers before Council approves such a lease:

  • Without competing bids (on buildings that don’t yet exist), how can taxpayers be sure they are getting the best deal?
  • Why hasn’t there been a public tender process? A generic request for proposal two years ago doesn’t seem to qualify.
  • Who is the lessor, and where is the site?
  • Who from the District negotiated the lease?
  • Who from the company negotiated the lease?
  • Is this company/person in other discussions with the district about other development projects – either the property subject to the lease or others?
  • Is there any potential legal jeopardy to the DOS through this leasing process?
  • What is the term and cost of the lease?
  • Is the lease subject to triple net and taxes? Will this change annually?
  • What is the total cost to the taxpayer of the lease?
  • Will the District have any equity at the end of the lease?

Looking into the actual occupancy, several concerns arise:

  • Who pays for structural maintenance for the newly leased space?
  • What happens when the newly leased space is damaged by events not the DOS’s responsibility?
  • Given that the district keeps important and sensitive information, how secure is the physical space?
  • How secure is the digital space?
  • How is accessibility? Especially in emergencies where access may be lost in a multi-floor case.
  • How many parking spaces will be available for the public? Will these be free?
  • Will any part of the new facility be available to community organizations when not in use by the DOS?

The Author

  • Bob Brant has lived in Squamish since 1979, 43 years. He has been a long-time volunteer with several community organizations. A few examples include being a co-founder of the Squamish Trails Society and past president for nineteen years. He was the Squamish Chamber of Commerce director for two terms and the sponsorship coordinator for Bob McIntosh Triathlon for four years. Also, Bob was recognized as the Squamish Citizen of the Year in 2003.


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