Canadian RV Owners Upset about New Fees
A group of travel trailer owners who collectively bought out their summer campground at Wakaw Lake near Wakaw, Saskatchewan, are fuming over new fees from the resort village's council, according to Star Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
About 120 travel trailer owners, many of whom leased their sites at the Poplar Beach campground on Wakaw Lake, purchased the campground in 2008. The following year, the Resort Village of Wakaw Lake began charging property taxes to each site-holder, but after the Saskatchewan Municipalities Act was amended in 2009 to exclude travel trailers from property taxes, the Wakaw Lake council decided to instead charge a fee per trailer.
The owners of the campsite believe they are being treated unfairly. They argue that it equates to charging individual renters in an apartment building property tax on their apartments.
"If one person owned an apartment building in Saskatoon, and then sold it to 100 people living in it, where it was still an apartment building — and the people continued to pay rent to the non-profit corporation they set up to run it — the city would not charge them more, because that is what they had in the first place," said Nadine Schueller, who has had a trailer in the campground for five years.
She calls the annual fee on trailers, set at about $225 per site with a $116 education tax, a backdoor tax that amounts to an expense of approximately $46,000 a year for the non-profit corporation that owns Poplar Beach Campground. In previous years, the owner paid only about $5,000 for the property, said Schueller.
Along with the $650 ownership fee she pays for a share of the Poplar Beach Campground, Schueller said she pays close to what some cabin owners pay every year in municipal taxes, and with fewer services. Also, cabin owners benefit from having an asset that tends to appreciate in value every year. Travel trailers, like vehicles, only depreciate, she said.
"They're going to tax it to the point where it wouldn't be affordable to even camp," she said. "In some sense, it is a summer residence. But that means my summer residence, which consists of a $20,000 camper, is costing me $1,000 a year. There are cabins listed out there with only about $850 a year in taxes, so essentially I'm paying more than a cabin."
Maurice Rivard, the mayor of Wakaw Lake village, does not understand the position of Poplar Beach residents. The summer residents of Poplar Beach enjoy services provided by the village, such as fire protection, police services, roadway maintenance and garbage collection, so they should pay taxes, he said.
"What's the difference between a fee and a tax? Not much, really," he said. "It just wants to be called a different thing.
"Whether you pay a tax or a fee, it's needed to pay for services, which are horrendously expensive," said Rivard.
"We don't make money. We try to keep our taxes as low as possible. Taxes are just a fact of life. I hate taxes too, actually. My personal preference would be to live there and not pay any taxes. That's what I'd like, but I just couldn't get away with it."
The new owners of Poplar Beach have been antagonistic from the beginning, he said.
"I really don't understand what goes on in that park. We have all this resentment and all this anger, it's a little bit scary."
The Poplar Beach residents understand that village services need to be covered, said Schueller, but they feel the new fees are simply not realistic.
Fair or not, Poplar Beach lot owners will pay the fees for now, she said.
There are currently about 150 cottage owners at Wakaw Lake and 128 lot owners in the Poplar Beach campground.