The 67-year-old Langley Rod and Gun Club (LRGC) could lose its tax-exempt status if it doesn’t deal with a provincial environment ministry demand to have its Brookswood shooting range tested for lead contamination.
Township council voted on Monday to renew the municipal tax exemption for the 37.5 acre Brookswood property the LGRC uses for indoor and outdoor shooting ranges near 40 Avenue and 208 Street, a decision that will save the non-profit group $30,000.
At the same time, council served notice the club must respond to a May 2010 letter from the provincial ministry of the environment that asks the club to test the site for possible lead contamination from old shotgun shells, and develop a clean-up plan if any contamination is discovered.
If the LRGC does not, the club may lose its tax-exempt status next year, council warned.
While the letter from the ministry didn’t directly order the LGRC to take steps, it said the club should hire “a qualified professional experienced in contaminated site investigation and remediation to identify and develop a management plan for any existing contamination and implement that plan” as well as creating a related plan that will “minimize the impact of current activities on human health and the environment.”
A staff report to council said the ministry has still “not received information indicating that their expectations have been met.”
Environment Canada banned the use of lead shot for hunting most migratory game bird species in 1999.
At the time, 15 per cent of bald eagles found dead in British Columbia and in the Prairie provinces had died from lead poisoning because they fed on birds that were shot with lead-based shells.
Lead is still used on shooting ranges, including RCMP and military practice facilities.
A 2011 report by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) said tests have found that lead pellets can leach into the soil of a shooting range, but the extent of contamination depends on a variety of factors including the weather and type of soil.
Earlier this year, in Washington State, a Bellevue indoor firing range ended up in court after tests found 47 construction and gun-range workers had elevated blood-lead levels.
The LRGC, which was established in 1946, has been operating at its current location for more than 40 years.
It operates as a non-profit society incorporated under the Societies Act of British Columbia “to provide a safe and friendly facility where individuals can enjoy many shooting disciplines.”
Those disciplines include skeet shooting, rifles, air pistols, handguns, fast draw, and modern pentathlon events.
At press time, the LGRC had not responded to a Times request for comment.
Township council approved tax exemptions Monday totalling $780,000 for 130 properties that are either owned by churches, private schools, charitable or non-profit agencies or have been designated heritage properties.
For the second year in a row, council turned down a request from the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) for a tax break on the 65,000 square foot Langley warehouse the authority leases to store all of the daily hospital supplies for the 12 FHA hospitals as well as emergency supplies and vaccines.
It would have cost the Township $295,000 in forgiven taxes.
Mayor Jack Froese said that would amount to downloading provincial health care costs onto municipal taxpayers.
The Township also turned down a Community Living Society request for a break on a Langley townhouse for people with disabilities, because it would likely lead to other exemption applications from other subsidized housing projects.
Council also rejected an application by the Langley Association for Community Living to add two just-acquired units in a strata commercial building to three properties that already have tax-exempt status.
Council approved tax-exempt status for six new properties, including a warehouse, thrift store and administration space owned by the Salvation Army and the spaces leased at the Langley Events Centre by Basketball B.C. and the Langley Gymnastics Foundation.