City council is holding off on discussing the taxation of vacant buildings for the time being as it waits to see if it will ever be granted the authority.

Back in May councillor Ginny Prowal made a notice of motion requesting staff prepare recommendations for an empty premise tax along with a reporting protocol similar to one recently adopted by the City of Vancouver.

Coun. Ginny Prowal. (Photo courtesy of the City of Merritt).

At the request of staff, council is waiting to see how an empty premise tax is implemented in Vancouver next year and how the province responds to a request from UBCM that other B.C. communities be allowed to charge this type of tax.

Currently no provision exists in the community charter that would allow the city to charge an empty premise tax, stated a report from director of finance Sheila Thiessen.

“In order for us to be able to enact a bylaw there needs to be enabling legislation and that currently doesn’t exist,” chief administrative officer Shawn Boven told council at its Nov. 14 meeting.

Vancouver has its own charter, so it does not follow the one adhered to by the City of Merritt and other B.C. municipalities.

A resolution requesting other cities be granted the authority to introduce a surtax on vacant and derelict residential properties was endorsed at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention back in September.

Endorsed resolutions become issues for UBCM staff to lobby the provincial government.

Thiessen’s report goes on to state that determining if a residential property is vacant for the purposes of the bylaw could be an onerous process. The process would require every homeowner submitting a status form each year to determine if their property is subject to the tax, which would require significant staff resources.

The report was received by city council for information only.

“I haven’t given up on it,” Prowal told the Herald. “We know there’s several homes in the Merritt area that have been empty for a very long time, and we want to do something about it.”

If it ever came to pass, the tax would only apply to residences.

“Even though there’s a lot of empty businesses they’re not grossly untidy where[as] some of the houses are,” said Prowal.