The Land Conservancy in financial straits

Non-profit organization owes more than $12,000 on 24 properties provincewide.

The Land Conservancy of British Columbia is working on a major restructuring effort to create a more efficient organization.

Alastair Craighead, chairman of the TLC board, in a message to supporters, states “there is not enough revenue coming in to sustain our current operations. Part of the problem has been the economic turmoil that has depressed funding opportunities … And another factor is the collapse in provincial and federal government grants. We also accept responsibility for carrying operational costs that led to an unacceptable backlog in our short-term commitments and payables.”

The organization failed to pay taxes on several of its properties for more than three years, which means some of those properties can be entered into a tax sale in late September. Under the Local Government Act, property owners have one year after a property is sold at a tax sale to redeem its property by purchasing it back and paying the outstanding taxes.

Across the province, TLC is involved with 300 projects totalling about 48,500 hectares. Of its 50 properties in municipal tax areas, 33 have exemptions because of TLC’s charitable status and because most properties are open to the public.

Properties owned by TLC near Nanaimo include Wildwood, widely recognized as a model for ecoforestry, and 56 hectares of riparian land on the lower Nanaimo River.

Neither of those properties owe back taxes and Wildwood’s mortgage was paid off last year, though there is no known covenant on the property.

The Nanaimo River property, which is part of a 99-year lease agreement with the Regional District of Nanaimo, is not taxable land, though it is not protected from being sold.

Craighead confirmed with the News Bulletin that neither Wildwood nor the Nanaimo River property are in any danger.

He said the total tax bill owing on the Wildwood property is $333 and does not have to be paid this year. The total amount the TLC must pay before Sept. 24 in delinquent taxes on 24 properties provincewide is $12,150.62.

“We will have no trouble paying it off,” said Craighead.

Tax sales are generally held in B.C. municipalities on the third Monday of September.

Gail Adrienne, executive director of the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, said TLC’s good intentions to protect and preserve as much property as possible has led to its current financial situation.

“It was all with good intent, but they’ve taken on some major land acquisitions, certainly way beyond anything we’ve attempted to do,” she said.

While both organizations have experienced government funding cuts and a reduction in donations, Adrienne said NALT’s board has acted much more cautiously.

“Within our means,” she said.

In an address on the TLC website, Craighead said the board is meeting this week to address its financial issues. Some responses will include reducing monthly costs, which will likely include staffing cuts, restructuring all operations, capping debt, and engaging members and donors to contribute more money.

“We need to shift our focus from growth toward ensuring long-term sustainability,” wrote Craighead. “We should be under no illusion. This is the most difficult financial situation that TLC has ever faced.”

Created in 1997, TLC is a non-profit charitable land trust that works throughout the province protecting habitat for plants, animals and natural communities as well as properties with historical, cultural, scientific or recreational values.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com