Rick Nielsen, chair of MacBride Museum’s board of directors, stands in front of the Front Street building on April 25, 2019. During the museum’s annual general meeting on April 23, members passed a resolution saying it would be willing to sell its land and buildings to the territory with conditions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

MacBride considers selling museum land and buildings to YG

The museum is facing a tax bill of $154,000

MacBride Museum may put its Front Street building and land in the hands of the Yukon government.

At its annual general meeting April 23, members passed a resolution that it would be willing to sell its land and buildings to the territory — if the territory wants to buy — with some conditions.

“In the event of an approach to sell the land and buildings and accept a 99-year lease; with full autonomy to control and operate as an independent society as we operate now MacBride will agree to sell to the Government of Yukon,” reads the resolution.

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie Dendys is aware of the resolution.

“This issue will require some consideration and we look forward to discussing it further,” Yukon government spokesperson Sunny Patch said in an email.

The museum owes the City of Whitehorse $154,000 in property taxes for the 2018 and 2019 tax years.

Last year marked the first year the museum was charged property taxes after the city placed a cap on a grant program that provides partial or full tax amounts for non-profits like MacBride.

While the city has stated for some time the cap would be applied to all, including MacBride, chair of the museum’s board of directors Rick Nielsen argued it is a significant departure from the former program that provided MacBride a grant equal to its entire property tax bill each year.

“In 67 years, we haven’t paid one penny in taxes,” Nielsen said.

He also said the museum does not question the city’s right to charge it taxes.

Nielsen said this isn’t the first time the possibility of having the Yukon government take over ownership of the land and buildings has been discussed, but given the current financial situation the “rubber’s hit the road” this time, Nielsen said.

He pointed out that as a museum land ownership is essentially a moot point for it.

Having the territory take over ownership would allow the organization to do the work of preserving and displaying Yukon artifacts and welcoming visitors, rather than having to focus on remaining solvent.

Nielsen said the museum society has to find a way to continue on. He pointed out the recently opened addition that came in on time and on budget.

Without the sale, the society could be faced with partial closure, staff cuts and more.

“It will change the dynamic of the museum,” he said, adding the society may also have to look at more ways to use its facilities to raise more money by hosting special events.

The next step for the board will be to formulate a more detailed plan that could then be presented to the Yukon government for consideration. No date has been set on that, though Nielsen said the board recognizes the urgency and will be doing everything to work towards that as quickly as possible.

“We’re not in any formal process,” he said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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