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LETTER: Councillor disputes Telegraph story, tells his side

Dear editor,

There is significant misinformation in the recent article about the parcel tax review panel.This misinformation does a disservice to readers of the Telegraph.

A parcel tax roll is prepared on the basis of a bylaw adopted by Council.The bylaw (not the panel as stated in the article) defines the specifics of 
the parcel tax roll.  Bylaw #2343, adopted in 2006, says:

“4(a) 39.09% of the total cost of the local area service is to be 
recovered by a local service tax in the form of a parcel tax on land with the 
parcel tax to be based on taxable area of each parcel, calculated on the full 
parcel build out (maximum permitted units) for each parcel, for a period of 
twenty-five (25) years.”

Bylaw #2343 was challenged in court on the grounds that taxable area could 
not be based on the number of units that could be built on a parcel.  The 
Court determined, and that decision was confirmed by the Court of Appeal, 
that because the number of units that can be built is ultimately determined 
by the physical characteristics of a parcel, the number of units was a 
reasonable measure of the taxable area of the parcel.

Contrary to the information provided by CAO Victor Kumar, at no time did the 
Court consider a formula for calculating the maximum number of units that 
could be built on a parcel.  See for yourself.  The reasons for judgment in 
the two cases are found at:
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/07/10/2007bcsc1063.htm
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/CA/09/01/2009BCCA0182.htm

The purpose of a review panel, as defined in the governing legislation (see 
Part 7, Division 4 of the Community Charter), is to review and consider the 
assessment roll and the individual entries made in it to ensure accuracy of 
assessment whether or not the investigation is based on a complaint or an 
assessor recommendation.  This is exactly what the review panel did.

The article states that Councillor Moore and myself were “deemed to be in 
contravention to legislated procedures”.  The only deeming was done by the 
CAO and the Mayor.   It is not up to either of them to determine whether the 
review panel process was out of order.  The Community Charter spells out the 
process to be followed if it was.  Mr. Kumar’s claims that the panel acted 
in contravention of the procedures is libelous.  As a result, I have 
submitted a notice of motion that Mr. Kumar’s employment contract be 
terminated with cause.

In May 2010, the review Panel composed of Councillor Moore, Mayor Granstrom 
and myself considered complaints filed by property owners in relation to the 
draft roll that had been prepared and made available to the public.  It was 
plainly obvious to a majority of the panel that there were serious errors in 
the Parcel Tax Roll.  The panel directed staff to make corrections to the 
roll.

To this day, no corrections have been made by staff even though I enquired in 
September and December of 2010 when those corrections would be completed.

A few of the errors identified in the parcel tax roll include:

1.The total number of assessed units (2,027.33) was significantly less than 
the maximum 2400 equivalent units permitted by the OCP and Zoning bylaw (2000 
at Red Mountain and 400 at Redstone).  The reduced total likely means someone 
will not be paying their fair share.

2.Condos in different buildings were assessed different fractional units.  A 
fractional unit does not represent the maximum permitted units specified in 
Bylaw #2343.  For example, condos in the Eagle’s Nest building are assessed 
at 0.31 “units” , the Slalom Creek condos are assessed at 0.39 
“units”, those in Cascade Lodge at 0.43 “units”, those in the 
Morningstar building at 0.57 “units”, those in the TMP complex at 1.05 
“units”, and those in the various Creekside buildings at 0.47, 0.74, 
0.98, or 1.47 “units”.

This is ridiculously inequitable.  Why should one condo be assessed at 
almost five times as much as another comparable condo?  All these condos are strata units of comparable size and each is listed as a separate parcel on 
the parcel tax roll.  It is obvious that each strata unit has reached the 
maximum development potential for that parcel and should be assessed at 1.00 units.

3.A parcel with a no-build covenant registered on title was assessed at  18.68 units.  The no-build covenant means that nothing can be built on the  parcel so it’s development potential is zero and should be assessed as such.

Mr. Kumar is quoted as saying the previous process ended and the panel has to  be appointed on an annual basis.  This is complete and utter nonsense.

The previous process did not end.  The review panel has been waiting for staff, under the direction of Mr. Kumar, to complete the corrections they were directed to do almost a year ago.  They have failed to do so.

In spite of Mr. Kumar’s assertions, there is absolutely nothing in the legislation that requires a review panel to be appointed on an annual basis. I challenge him to identify the legislation that says there is.

The article suggests the City now has to pay $150,000 in additional interest payments.  That is simply not correct.  Interest started accumulating on the temporary borrowing used to pay for construction of the Ophir Reservoir.  
Some of the property owners at Red objected to paying taxes for a project 
that was not providing a service.  The City agreed to delay charging the 
parcel tax until the reservoir was 90% full which didn’t happen until 2009. 
  The accumulated interest is added to the $1.915 million specified in Bylaw 
#2343 (not the $1.415 million stated in the article) that the property owners 
must repay once debentures are issued.   The only bungling involved was the 
failure of staff to make the necessary corrections to the parcel tax roll.

Any prepayment of taxes was the decision of those making the payments.  If 
property owners were told they owed a certain amount, they were misinformed.  
Until the parcel tax roll is authenticated, there was no way to know exactly 
what the tax levy on any individual parcel will be.  Once the roll is 
authenticated, a parcel tax bylaw must still be adopted before notices can be 
sent out telling property owners exactly what their tax bill is.  This never 
happened.  Any work that needs to be redone as a result of those prepayments 
is because staff didn’t follow the prescribed process.

The actions of Mayor Granstrom throughout the debate were the most despicable and disgraceful behaviour I have ever witnessed in my many years as an elected official.  He bullied and interrupted councillors trying to speak.  
He ignored provisions of the Procedure Bylaw.  He forced a vote on a motion 
without allowing any councillors to speak.  When I objected to his outrageous 
behaviour, without warning he ordered my expulsion from the meeting. It was 
an absolute abuse of power and an assault on democracy.  He is not worthy of 
holding the office of mayor.

For any who are interested, you can form your own opinion about Mr. Granstrom’s behaviour by downloading the video of the meeting from the City 
website. To save time, scroll through to the 1:35:00 time of the video to view the key parts of the meeting.

The article says I continued speaking beyond my allotted five minutes.  If  you care to watch the video, you will see that I actually spoke for only a  fraction of that time before I was interrupted by Mayor Granstrom.  You will  also see Mr. Granstrom interrupt other councillors in the same bullying  manner.  If anyone was not following parliamentary procedures it was him.

The meeting last Monday was a sorry affair on many accounts, not just the  parcel tax review panel issue.  The situation is not helped when articles written about it do not present a balanced and accurate account of what has occurred.

 

Laurie Charlton

Rossland, BC