TRANSLINK is appealing the property value assessments on three of its multi-million dollar properties in North Vancouver, including the SeaBus terminal at Lonsdale Quay.
TransLink recently launched appeals of the assessments for both SeaBus terminals — including the $17 million property in North Vancouver and the $14 million property on the Vancouver side.
The transit authority is also appealing assessments of two other North Vancouver properties, said Derek Zabel, spokesman for TransLink. Zabel refused to say which properties those were while the appeals are underway.
According to records of the Property Assessment Appeal Board, however, last year TransLink appealed assessments of both the $9.4 million West Vancouver Blue Bus terminal on Lloyd Avenue and its $3.3 million North Vancouver bus depot on Third Street. It later decided not to pursue either of those appeals.
Zabel said the transit authority considers appealing assessments anytime the value of its properties rise by 10 per cent or more.
He said as a public body, “We need to be wise stewards of the taxpayer money we’re provided with. We just follow the process that’s set out.”
Last year, TransLink launched appeals of more than 20 of its properties around the Lower Mainland and succeeded in having assessments significantly lowered for a number of them. In some cases, property values shrunk by more than a million dollars, to half or less of former values.
The latest round of appeals is being watched nervously by local political leaders, particularly in light of the appeal by B.C. Ferries last year that saw its Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal go from a value of close to $50 million to just $20. That decision was later reversed in a negotiated deal after the province stepped in.
City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto said anytime a large taxpayer appeals an assessment, “It’s of concern for us.”
“We have to budget,” he added. “We need some certainty. If they appeal their assessment and they’re successful, we have to go back to our budget; we have to start eliminating things we had planned on doing.”
The city had a similar experience some years ago when Western Stevedoring appealed its assessed value and received a significant reduction, setting a precedent for other port industries. The city fought that decision in the courts and lost — eventually forcing the city and district of North Vancouver to pay back more than $1.7 million each to the port terminal. Eventually the province stepped in and capped port property taxes. But the decision still resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue, said Mussatto.
“It hits us right in the budget line,” he said.
“We know nobody likes to pay taxes, whether you’re a business or a utility or a resident,” he said. But when one property owner is successful in an appeal, he said, “someone else has to pick up the slack.”
The province is also watching the latest round of assessment appeals. A spokesman from the ministry of community, sport and cultural development said the province is working on a possible alternate method of land valuation for single-use properties such as those owned by TransLink and B.C. Ferries.
The province is hoping to have that in place by the end of the year.