Permissive tax exemptions will continue on land not used for the delivery of services for three Summerland churches, council decided Thursday.

Council unanimously agreed that the Julia Street Church, Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and St. John’s Lutheran Church will receive a 70 per cent reduction in exemptions s for 2019, 50 per cent for 2020 and 25 per cent for 2021.

Places of worship automatically receive a 100 per cent statutory exemption from B.C. Assessment on buildings and customarily receive a 100 per cent exemption from local governments on associated areas such as parking lots.

In 2016, council resolved that lands in excess would be given a 70 per cent reduction in exemptions for one year.

During this year, staff were to meet with church representatives, review the properties in depth and provide council with long-term recommendations.

Due to a change in finance directors coupled with extraordinary events, such as the 2017 flood, the intended review was not completed.

Council then provided a further one-year exemption for the 2018 calendar year during which time staff held discussions with each of the pastors.

Based on those discussions, staff recommended not granting exemptions for 2019 and subsequent years.

However, council disagreed.

“There is a lot of land out there doing nothing. We need to encourage that something will happen while understanding their (the churches) challenges,” Coun. Doug Holmes said.

Council directed staff to assist with helping church representatives explore opportunities for their excess land to quality for the full exemption.

Possible uses for the excess land include farming, indoor and outdoor recreation facilities and low-cost housing.

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