Bike park tax exemption denied

Mountain Biking Association looking for funding alternatives.

The Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association (BLMBA) is dealing with a few interesting developments concerning their bike park located on Burns Lake Community Forest (BLComfor) land in the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN).

A request to the regional district for a permissive tax exemption the not-for-profit BLMBA was expecting to be granted has recently been denied leaving the association about $800 in the hole concerning their 2015 budget. In addition to losing the tax exemption, the land the bike park is on may change hands from the regional district to the Village of Burns Lake.

Guy Epkens-Shaffer, President of the BLMBA, said the rejection of their $800 tax exemption application initially came as a surprise to the association and leaves the volunteer group in a search for funding alternatives. He said they were advised by members of village council they would be granted a tax exemption if they applied for one.

Epkens-Shaffer said he and RDBN chair Bill Miller had a good conversation about the situation after the decision and knows the region has bigger concerns than granting the BLMBA a tax exemption. He said they have been paying their taxes on the 160-acre bike park since they began leasing the land from the Burns Lake Community Forest seven or eight years ago and they are trying to eliminate some of their overhead because they are weak financially and depend on the community to keep them afloat.

“We have a bike camp that takes place every May and June,” he said about the ways the group raises money apart from membership fees. The second fund-raiser for the BLMBA is the Big Pig.

“This year our Big Pig got postponed for a little over a month because of the fires that were going on in the area about a month ago. Who knows how much we’re going to take in there. This is all new territory for us because we’re pretty consistent over the years when it’s in August.”

Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold said the reason why the group failed in their bid for a tax exemption is because some directors at RDBN are not keen on providing tax exemptions to not-for-profit organizations. He said the village’s attempt to transfer the community forest land from the regional district to village control is not in light of the tax exemption being denied, but because the village is the shareholder for the Burns Lake Community Forest and would like to extend their boundaries to include this property within the municipality.

“There is quite a thorough process for boundary expansion,” said Strimbold, noting the idea is in the initial stage right now. “There is a community consultation that has to take place and what we’re thinking right now at this point is let’s engage in an initial conversation [and] let’s see what the interests are. Some of our council and staff will need to do some work of what are the pros and cons if we take it on [and] what are some of the additional responsibilities or requirements that we may have to carry out.”

Strimbold said the municipal leaders are looking for opportunities to extend the village boundaries for both economic purposes and a better working relationship with the organizations that stage activities on community forest land. He said if this land is within village boundaries they could form partnerships with these groups and then look at whether they could provide a tax exemption or additional supports.

“We as a council would make sure that [expansion] is not an expense,” he said about whether there could be a cost to taxpayers if the land is transferred. “At the end of the day we’re not wanting to take land on that is going to cost us money. We would look at things that would be a benefit to our community both through whether it’s a service or whether it’s economic development that would then benefit our community.”

Epkens-Shaffer said BLMBA will be paying the tax in 2015 and has no plans to ask BLComfor to help them cover it. He said they are presently looking at other ways to make up the amount the tax exemption would have covered.