Council is one final reading away on a motion that would label the Campbell River Art Gallery a “bad neighbour” and remove its tax exemption, but the art gallery believes the blame is misplaced.
The Campbell River Art Gallery is right downtown in the middle of an area used by a growing homeless population. Unhoused people hang out in Spirit Square next door or on the lawns of the gallery.
Now, the city appears to be blaming the Art Gallery and is one final reading away from withdrawing 100 per cent of its tax exemption for next year, worth around $10,000.
“So we went from 100 per cent to zero per cent as a punitive measure for what they perceive to be our bad actions,” said Campbell River Art Gallery executive director Sara Lopez.
Bad actions they’re still trying to figure out, but Coun. Ron Kerr tabled the amended motion at last week’s council meeting and said the art gallery is a bad neighbour.
“They have been, and their behaviour has been very poor neighbourly to the surrounding businesses and is having an extremely detrimental effect to our downtown businesses and visitations in our downtown area,” he told council during the meeting on Sept. 28. During the meeting, all but Coun. Tanille Johnston voted in favour.
Lopez says it’s far from the gallery’s responsibility to handle the homeless and points out the building is even a city-owned building the gallery just rents.
The CRAG board of directors and even the RCMP have advised staff against trying to get the people to move along.
“Our hours of operation are 9-5 Monday to Saturday. Outside of those hours I have no control over what happens. I’m certainly not about to come down here at 8 o’clock after putting my kids to bed to tell people to move it along,” Lopez added.
Lopez says a Thursday art class open to people on the street has been very successful and says maybe the city doesn’t like that.
They’ve posted an appeal on the gallery’s Instagram page asking supporters to write to the city and Lopez says they’ve also received emails of support from other businesses, their neighbours right on the street.
No one at the city was available to answer our questions but it did issue this statement from Elle Brovold, the city manager.
“Council amended Permissive Exemption from Taxation Bylaw No. 3920, 2023, at the Council meeting on September 28, 2023. Staff are carrying out the necessary notifications and processes involved in amending the bylaw. Organizations looking to provide feedback on the bylaw and amendments ahead of the Council meeting on October 12, 2023, may submit written comments to [email protected] or City Hall (301 St. Ann’s Road) by 4 p.m. on October 11, 2023.”
City council is expected to make a final decision at its next meeting.