What SilverStar's approval as a resort association means, and why some are opposed - InfoNews

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What SilverStar's approval as a resort association means, and why some are opposed

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/SilverStar Mountain Resort
March 17, 2020 - 9:00 PM

The provincial government's approval to enable SilverStar to become a Resort Association only benefits commercial interests and has split the community, says one vocal opponent.

The province announced March 10 that it approved an application paving the way for the creation of the SilverStar Mountain Resort Association. Once created, the Resort Association will form a board of directors who will have the power to create certain bylaws and charge residents a tax if they let out their property as vacation rentals.

The proposal to create the association came from the Silver StarMarketing Task Force which three years ago spearheaded the application and ultimately won a vote in favour. SilverStar will now be added to the list of other Resort Associations that exist in B.C. - Whistler, Sun Peaks and Red Mountain.

"This is not a fight about community benefits, this is simply a commercial benefit to the mountain which is a private business and we got sucked into it," SilverStar resident Martin George told iNFOnews.ca. "It's a marketing tool and it is only designed to be a marketing tool for the resort."

George stresses that he doesn't represent one particular group, but over the last few years has spoken in opposition to the proposal with the support of a core number of people. He points out over 400 people voted against the change.

SilverStar realtor Don Kassa was part of the task force who pushed for the change and says Resort Association status will open many doors and will be good for everyone. 

"This is all for the benefit of our community," Kassa told iNFOnews.ca.

Kassa said it will allow the community to apply for a multitude of funding it currently can not obtain — such as the hotel tax and lottery funds — and gives the town more access to grants.

Kassa said the money will then be used for community development benefitting everyone who lives at SilverStar.

While the Regional District of North Okanagan will still be responsible for property taxes and municipal services, the formation of a resort association allows an elected board to lobby for federal and provincial grants. Once created, a board of 11 directors, of which nine are elected, will make decisions affecting all residents of SilverStar.

George, who has said he will run to be on the board, is highly critical of the set up because members with business interests will always represent over 50 per cent of the board.

One sticking point is the Resort Association's scrapping of a Resort Area Management tax, which is paid by some in the ski town but not all.

Currently, clauses in certain property deeds mandate them to pay a five per cent Resort Area Management tax if they rent out the property to skiers. Other properties do not have the clause written into their property deeds.

With the creation of the SilverStar Resort Association, the Resort Area Management tax will be scrapped and everyone who rents their property will have to pay a tax.

George, who rents out a one-bedroom suite and is currently exempt from the five per cent tax sees this as a "threat" giving up far too much control to a board of directors.

"If they decide to change the bylaws, because of the weighting of the business members of the board they can pretty much do what they like," he said. "(The board) could... force all rental properties to go under centre reservation controlled by SilverStar Mountain... (and) take about a 40 per cent bite."

While George accepts the fact that his holiday rental benefits from the mountain doing well, he also argues that every tourist he attracts to the ski hill by marketing his vacation rental himself spends large amounts of money at the resort.

Kassa, who owns a real estate business at SilverStar and is currently exempt from the tax, says he'll have to pay taxes when the village becomes a Resort Association but he still favours the move as the long term benefits will be worth it.

While Kassa welcomes the change and hopes a SilverStar Resort Association will be set up within the year, George, who has lived at SilverStar for 15 years, says the issue is dividing the community.

"It has split the community in two in many ways, some simply agreeing to disagree, others not talking to each other anymore," he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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