Local churches are pleased with Penticton’s new process for registering non-profits, after a nine-month debate about how best to keep track of non-business ventures within city limits.
Penticton council passed three readings of the non-profit regulation bylaw last week, paving the way for organizations to register with the city so the municipality can ensure compliance with relevant fire and life safety requirements.
According to a staff report, business licences were the only way the city could previously keep track of organizations setting up shop in Penticton, and the city drafted revisions to the business licence bylaw late last year that would require non-profit groups to register with the city before opening their doors to the public.
But a group of 13 churches in the area banded together to fight the move. They posited that faith-based organizations are excluded from business definitions under provincial and federal law, and such a change would make Penticton the first place in B.C. — if not the country — that would require churches to have a business licence.
First Baptist Church’s senior pastor, Callum Jones, said the group consulted with city staff and Mayor Dan Ashton often to review progress since January.
“It’s been a very helpful and constructive conversation to have,” he said. “The city was keen and desiring to ensure proper health and fire safety is maintained, particularly with new non-profits that move into the city. Initially that was going to be positioned under a business licence.”
The resulting regulations fall in line with what church groups had been hoping to see, Jones said.
“The intention is to ensure there are appropriate ways of enforcing fire and safety in buildings that non-profits use,” he said, an issue churches are “absolutely” in support of.
“It’s been a good process. There’s been no major hiccup or anything.”
Penticton city’s development services director Anthony Haddad wrote in his report that the proposed solution was “a more accommodating approach.”
Council passed three readings unanimously.