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No to NAPTEP
The Natural Areas Protection Tax Exemption Program (NAPTEP) aims to give Gulf Island landowners in the Sunshine Coast and Capital Regional Districts a tool to permanently protect natural and cultural features of their land and receive a 65 per cent exemption on property taxes on the protected portion of their land. It has been active in all the Trust’s islands except those that fall within the jurisdiction of the Metro Vancouver Regional District (MVRD).
Islands Trust and MVRD staff are currently drafting a report for Metro Vancouver to consider enabling the program on Bowen, Boyer and Passage Island. But at the February 18 meeting of the Bowen Island Council, mayor Jack Adelaar made it clear that he doesn’t welcome the initiative.
“We were very specific in September [at the Islands Trust meeting] that we are not interested in NAPTEP,” Adelaar said. “We can barely afford paying the Islands Trust. We can’t afford another program. The Islands Trust is dealing with Metro Vancouver knowing that [NAPTEP] is not on our agenda.”
He added that the program would cost the municipality money and, in addition, affect its tax base. “We would lose twice,” he said.
CAO Kathy Lalonde has inquired about the status of the program on Bowen and said, “I spoke to Lisa Gordon at the Islands Trust and she made it clear that the process to [expand NAPTEP into the Metro Vancouver area] was pushed by Gambier and Boyer. It would enable NAPTEP on Bowen if we desire to enter into it. But that requires council’s approval.”
Gordon’s letter to Lalonde states that “the Islands Trust Act gives the Bowen Island Municipality complete authority over whether NAPTEP comes to Bowen Island.”
The letter also says that “Islands Trust staff have made it clear to MVRD that the BIM council is not currently considering introducing NAPTEP in its jurisdiction. Nevertheless, there are two other islands (Boyer and Passage) within the share jurisdiction of the Islands Trust and MVRD that are not able to take advantage of NAPTEP without the support of MVRD.”
Adelaar said that a resolution, passed just before municipal elections in 2011, says that the previous council agreed “in principle to the implementation of [NAPTEP], pending a formal agreement between the Trust council and Bowen council, defining Bowen Island Municipal Council’s authority over the program.” Since no such agreement was reached, Adelaar said he was taken aback by a reference to Bowen in the Islands Trust newsletter as well as by the fact that the Bowen Island Conservancy had promoted the program at its 2011 and 2012 Annual General Meetings, despite council’s stance.
In an email, Owen Plowman, president of the Bowen Island Conservancy, said, “We have been advocating for NAPTEP to be made available on Bowen and have encouraged our members to show their support for the program by making their views known to Metro Vancouver and our own council. We see NAPTEP as a very reasonable and workable incentive program that encourages landowners to protect the natural features of their land, and hope that it will be available on Bowen Island in the future.”
The rationale of the program is explained on the Trust’s website: “At the Islands Trust Fund, we believe entire communities benefit from private land conservation. But with land values in the islands among the highest in Canada, high property taxes can force landowners to make a difficult choice between protecting the natural features they love and developing their property to generate much needed income. We believe there should be an incentive to encourage landowners to choose to protect their land and provide their island communities with the benefits of increased natural area.”
It is a statement that also applies to Bowen Island, according to Plowman, who added, “as an organization dedicated to conservation, the Conservancy will support any such reasonable program.”
“I’m upset that [the Conservancy] hasn’t consulted with this council. And what’s even more upsetting is that we’ve had no conversation from the Islands Trust telling us what is happening behind the scenes,” he said. Adelaar said that, in his personal opinion, the Conservancy has done a good job in preserving ecologically sensitive areas. But he sees the issue of NAPTEP “starting to turn into political battle.”
Councillor and Islands Trust trustee Andrew Stone said that what happens between Metro Vancouver and the Islands Trust is a “staff to staff conversation between two regional governments” to get the paperwork in order to set the condition for NAPTEP in the Howe Sound area. “All they are doing is mapping the area to be NAPTEP-able,” he said.
Councillor and Island Trust trustee Wolfgang Duntz said that council has “better things to do” than looking at NAPTEP. “The Islands Trust can’t move without council’s approval and [NAPTEP] is not on our list of priorities for this term. So, this is a non-issue at this time,” he said.