Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2008 (3237 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The copper-roofed roundhouse at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Main Street owes $128,000 in property taxes and compound interest dating back to 2005.
If the bill is not paid in full by Dec. 3, the city could snap up the Douglas Cardinal-designed structure, thanks to an encumbrance against the land title registered late last year.
Thunderbird House is owned by Neeginan Development Corporation, a non-profit aboriginal organization. But it's run by Circle of Life Thunderbird House, a separate non-profit group that operates the programming inside the centre.
The two entities have been embroiled in an ownership dispute that appears to be complicating city efforts to collect the taxes, said Nelson Karpa, Winnipeg's assessment and taxation director.
"Part of the issue is, they are non-profit boards, and perhaps there could be communication issues," Karpa said. "They have not been in communication with me as to why they haven't paid the bill."
Back in 2006, Neeginan attempted to evict Circle of Life, claiming the building was not being used properly and its decrepit state threatened to tarnish the reputation of the aboriginal community. Neeginan relented when a deal was struck to hand the building over to Circle of Life, which had staged a three-day sit-in.
But the title was never transferred and a second eviction attempt was made in 2007. That ended in a court injunction that allowed aboriginal elders to remain in the building.During this dispute, the city has issued annual tax bills of approximately $28,000, plus monthly interest of 1.25 per cent. The outstanding bill of $128,000 must be paid in full to avoid a situation where the building's owner must rescue the property, Karpa said.
An administrator with Neeginan declined to comment and referred Free Press queries to Circle of Life board members, who in turn did not return phone calls.
But the groups have asked why Thunderbird House must pay property taxes when churches, mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras do not.
"But right now, there are no religious ceremonies and there is no religious aspect to the institution," Karpa said. "So that does not make them exempt."
Karpa said he believes Thunderbird House would be exempt in the future if Circle of Life takes over the title and holds spiritual ceremonies inside the building. Exemptions are offered if a spiritual organization owns and occupies a building -- and uses it as a place of worship.
But even if Neeginan transfers the Thunderbird House title over to Circle of Life, the exemption will not be retroactive, Karpa said.
That means somebody must pay $128,000 in unpaid taxes for Thunderbird House.
In 1999, the Winnipeg Development Agreement, involving federal, provincial and city governments, granted the project $6.19 million through six programs, including $2.25 million for land acquisition and $1.5 million in on-street enhancements. A sweat lodge built in 2003 cost a further $443,000. The property is assessed at $1.5 million.
Built in 1999 at the corner of Main Street and Higgins Avenue
Owned by Neeginan Development Corp., but run by Circle of Life Thunderbird House, a non-profit organization that runs the spiritual programs
Neeginan attempted to evict Circle of Life in September 2006, claiming the building was not used or maintained properly. The eviction was averted after Neeginan agreed to hand the building over to Circle of Life - but the transfer of title did not take place
A separate group of elders facing eviction by Neeginan in July 2007 won a court injunction and was allowed to stay
In December 2007, the City of Winnipeg registered an encumbrance against the title due to $128,000 in unpaid property taxes
The city could seize the building if the taxes are not paid in full by Dec. 3, 2008