Council approves tax incentive request

by Phil Ambroziak

It’s been said two heads are better than one, but two homes can some times prove to be troublesome at best.
Just ask Kerry and Barry Hamilton of 317 7th St. East in Meadow Lake. The couple recently wrote a letter to city council requesting they be considered for the municipality’s residential property tax incentive bylaw.

“We received our property tax notice in the mail and were quite shocked with what we saw – our taxes tripled,” Kerry Hamilton wrote.

The residential property tax incentive bylaw is designed to deliver a rebate on municipal taxes for three years when new houses are built to replace older ones. Last year, the Hamiltons constructed a new home on their property. They moved into the house in November, but their original house is still standing on the property. This is what resulted in the large increase in property taxes.

“We did expect our taxes to increase with our new house, but not quite to this extreme,” Hamilton continued. “I did some inquiring and found out we were taxed on two houses.”
According to city manager Diana Burton, because the Hamiltons’ situation is unique, she doesn’t believe it falls within the bylaw’s authority to approve the rebate.

“On the parcel of land in question, when the residents were planning to build a new house in 2011 they requested from council to be able to start building their new house before removing the old one, as they are technically not allowed to have two primary residences on their property,” Burton said. “Council approved their request subject to the older house being removed within 90 days of the new, ready-to-move house being strapped down. The older residence was not removed within that timeframe and to date still stands on the property – because there are two houses on the property, the assessment increased dramatically.”

While several options were provided to council by Burton, councillor Merlin Seymour moved for the city to approve the Hamiltons’ request for a full exemption from municipal taxes. Under the bylaw, this would result in a 100 per cent exemption this year, 50 per cent next year and 25 per cent the following year. The Hamiltons would still be responsible for paying property taxes on the original house.

“I should also note, I did a review of the file and in October 2012 they asked for an extension on the 90 days, which would have taken them into April of this year,” Burton said. “I’m not sure how that request was processed, but even if it was approved, that would have expired in the spring.”

Councillor Annette Klassen asked if council would consider adding a deadline to the motion to ensure the old house is removed by a certain date, something her colleagues agreed could be addressed.

“Could we not move this along instead of offering them an incentive?” asked councillor Curtis Paylor. “There’s clearly a violation here, so why not allow the tax incentive to kick in only after the old house is gone? I don’t understand how we can offer an incentive to someone who is obviously dragging their feet. Let’s amend the motion because it would show the builders they could have a pretty good incentive waiting for them.”

Mayor Gary Vidal disagreed with amending motion, stating it would likely change the spirit of the original motion. He did suggest Paylor could table his own motion if the original failed, but Seymour’s original motion was subsequently carried.

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