When the Property Assessment Appeal Board recently radically downgraded the assessed value of the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, it provoked a major outcry from West Vancouver municipal officials.
The mayor, Michael Smith, was irate over the two-member panel’s ruling to reduce the value of two assessments, one of $41.5 million and the other of $6.3 million, to $10 each. The decision by lawyer Dale Pope and former City of Vancouver real-estate services manager Bruce Maitland was retroactive to 2010, which means that West Vancouver must repay $750,000 in property taxes to B.C. Ferries, plus address another $250,000 shortfall next year.
“We are appealing this unfair decision, which essentially means West Vancouver taxpayers will now bear the cost of fire, police, parks and roads services at the terminal,” Smith said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to reduce the impact of this decision on our taxpayers.”
Although B.C. Ferries enjoyed a monumental concession, the same isn’t true for West Vancouver homeowners who’ve recently gone before the board. Betty and William Bartlett objected to having their one-storey home with a basement and two-car garage in the Caulfeild neighbourhood assessed at $1.72 million. The land on the 15,823-square-foot site was deemed to be worth $1.45 million, whereas they argued that it should have been valued at $1.15 million.
The Bartletts provided sales figures for three other properties, but didn’t adjust for the timing of each transaction or differences in the lots and improvements, according to the board’s panel chair, Shiela Lange. She determined that the Bartletts’ home was actually worth slightly more than $1.73 million, but didn’t adjust the assessment upward because this wasn’t requested by the assessor.
Pope, who chaired the B.C. Ferries reassessment, meanwhile confirmed the assessor’s evaluation of an appeal by Amin Merchant for homes on Hawstead Place and Millstream Road in West Vancouver. In both instances, Pope wrote in his ruling that he accepted the assessor’s “market driven analysis”, which confirmed the value of $2.24 million on Millstream Road and $1.31 million on Hawstead Place. Merchant sought rulings worth more than $900,000 less for the two properties.
In a third ruling involving a West Vancouver home, panel chair Patricia Begg slightly reduced the assessment on Lillian and John Stewart’s 57-year-old home on Burley Drive in Sentinel Hill from $1.25 million to $1.16 million.
B.C. Ferries isn’t the only commercial operation to benefit from recent Property Assessment Appeal Board rulings in recent months. The board also approved a joint recommendation by the area assessor and BCR Properties to reduce the assessed value of two of its sites in Squamish from $17.1 million to $5.65 million. Meanwhile, Arbutus Village Holdings Ltd. and the assessor obtained the board’s permission to change the assessed value of the mall property at 4255 Arbutus Street in Vancouver from $58.58 million to $47.5 million. This will substantially reduce the amount of tax that the company will have to pay to the city as it goes through a redevelopment.
In the downtown core, Royal Centre, which houses the Royal Bank of Canada’s B.C. regional office, saw its assessed value cut by $3.35 million. And in the Downtown Eastside, 825 Powell Investments Ltd. and the area assessor agreed to a 38-percent reduction at 110 Hawks Avenue, which was approved by the board. These are two of several commercial locations in Vancouver—including 1074 Davie Street, 1718 West 3rd Avenue, and 656 West Broadway—that had assessed values reduced with the approval of the Property Assessment Appeal Board.
In its statement, the District of West Vancouver declared that the board based its B.C. Ferries ruling “on the grounds that the properties have no market value because they have no other purpose other than as a ferry terminal and there is no potential for profit”. As the Georgia Straight went to the printer on November 14, the district was scheduled to hold the first of two open houses to discuss the impact of the decision on the budget. The next meeting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday (November 21) at the Seniors’ Activity Centre (695 21st Street, West Vancouver).
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.