“Y” tax exemption for Brantford fitness club?

BRANTFORD – There seems to be mixed messages coming out of Brantford’s City Hall regarding what should and should not be taxed.

Six Nations Elected Council was put into a position recently to either pay back around $36,000 in back taxes on a property on West Street in Brantford that was willed to them several years ago, or to let the land be sold out from under Six Nations in a tax auction. The taxes owing at the time of the man’s death were paid by the estate before the transfer to Six Nations.

Current Elected Chief Ava Hill and her council paid the amount, under protest, to stop the sale, but will be challenging the city in court to get that money back if a negotiated settlement is not possible.

Despite letters of objection from former Elected Chief Bill Montour and his council, Brantford went ahead and put the property on the auction block, disregarding a 1997 agreement guaranteeing that lands held in trust for Six Nations would be tax free.

But is Brantford being consistent in its insistence that all taxes must be paid on properties within the city? No, not so much.

In downtown Brantford, final details are being put in place to build a new YMCA complex on land on the south side of Colborne St. There was objection from several groups to the demolition of the largest row of pre-confederation storefronts in Canada, but in the end, the lots were expropriated and the heritage buildings came down.

Before expropriation, the city was earning somewhere between $120,000 and $150,000 per year in tax revenues, or maybe more. Although the landholders let the properties fall into disrepair, the taxes were always paid.

But what is to be gained by Brantford when the new YMCA complex is built on that site? How much tax money will that generate in taxes? The answer is nothing.

In 2011, Brantford applied for and received from the Province tax exemption for south Colborne Street between the Laurier building at Colborne and Market Street and the bridge.

Historically, as a Christian mission, the YMCA has been tax exempt on any properties it has owned since 1911, including the land it now occupies at Clarence and Wellington.

But what was once a Christian outreach to the (male) children of the poor, homeless and the unemployed, is today not much more than an upscale fitness club, which is operating, tax free, in competition with other such clubs in the city which are required to pay taxes.

At least two lots along the target location of the new YMCA are under Six Nations, Nathan Gage land claim and still before the courts, unresolved.

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