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