A local business owner has told the Burns Lake council that he has withheld his business licence fee payments to “get council’s attention.”
“After all these years, I finally have someone’s attention,” said Wayne Brown, owner of Process 4 circle arts Gallery, to council on June 28, 2017.
Brown last paid his business licence fee in 2012, and currently owes the village $520. Meanwhile Purely H20’s owner has also decided to stop paying the annual fee in 2013, and is currently owing the village $420.
Last month council discussed whether the municipality should start a collection process, but decided to give the local business owners a chance to express their points of view. However, only the owner of Process 4 circle arts Gallery agreed to speak to council.
Brown said this all started when council decided to construct a building that now houses the Lakes Artisan Centre, which consists of local artists and artisans who share in the operation and costs of the store. The village has been renting the building to the Lakes Artisan Cooperative since 2010, charging $500 per month – which includes utilities and snow removal.
Brown says that renting the building below market rate harms local competitors.
‘“‘Let’s offer to rent it out for a nominal fee’ seemed to be the wisdom of the day,” said Brown. “At this point council begins competing with other landlords who are also trying to rent out their building.”
“But rather than setting the rent at a fair market value, council sets the rent far below actual market value – thus unfairly taking the other landlords’ opportunities away from renting to their potential clients,” he continued. “And as a sole proprietor, like myself, we have to pay the market value for this.”
“The cooperative has several business persons contributing to the cost of their lease; a sole proprietor doesn’t have that advantage,” he added. “Council should not be competing with existing businesses in Burns Lake; council must find a way to pay for their mistake.”
During the council meeting, Brown questioned why the building was consctructed in the first place and what was the intention of building it. Village staff is currently researching these questions.
“This is about fairness and equality; it’s not about my business licence,” said Brown. “Now it’s the taxpayer who is subsidizing the costs of keeping this building on the village books.”
Since Brown has had to travel to Ontario for the month of July to deal with pressing family matters, he’s asked council not to take any further action until he returns. Council has agreed to continue discussions in August.