$233,000 in taxes forgiven on controversial ballpark parking-lot
Winnipeg council votes 8-6 to change lease
Winnipeg city council has voted in favour of a deal that forgives the property tax bill owed to the city by a company connected to Mayor Sam Katz's baseball team.
City councilllors voted 8-6 to change the terms of a lease on a city-owned piece of land used as a parking lot by Riverside Park Management. The change sees the property cut in half and eliminates $233,000 in outstanding taxes.
The 24-hectare piece of land had been used as a parking lot during baseball games at Canwest Park, home of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, which is majority-owned by Katz.
The Waterfront Drive parking lot was leased to Riverside Park Management for $1 annually in exchange for the group paying the property taxes. The non-profit group then sublet the lot to the Goldeyes for use on game days.
The outstanding property taxes began to pile up in 2006 after an assessment increased the value of the land.
Katz recused himself from the 90-minute debate on Wednesday night on the controversial issue and the vote.
The mayor said the councillors who voted against the deal are hypocritical and will always oppose what he does.
"For a long time to come, I will be president and CEO of the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball club and as long as I am, there will be certain individuals that will throw things at my face," Katz said. "So be it."
Councillors Lillian Thomas and Dan Vandal voted against the tax forgiveness. The two argued the company connected to the mayor's team, Riverside Park Management, is getting preferential treatment.
Councillors Justin Swandel and Mike O'Shaughnessy voted yes, and rejected the opposition as people out to get the mayor.
"Now let's call it what it is," O'Shaughnessy said. "That it is nothing more than mudslinging. There's only one reason to vote against the clause and that's to get that guy, and that makes me sick."