Canada's air traffic control agency is appealing for lower property assessments for airport control towers across Canada, a move that could cost Richmond thousands of dollars in property taxes.
The 2013 assessment of the control tower at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond was set at $9.9 million by B.C. Assessment. That was appealed by Nav Canada to the B.C. Property Assessment Review Panel, the first stage of an appeal process, in January.
That panel has withheld a decision on the YVR tower until the B.C. Supreme Court rules on an older dispute between B.C. Assessment and Nav Canada over the value of similar facilities at four other airports in B.C. In those cases, Nav Canada, the private company that provides civil air navigation across the country, asked in 2011 to have the assessed values slashed for its facilities in at least four B.C. cities - Victoria, Penticton, Pitt Meadows and Castlegar. The Nav Canada facility at Victoria International Airport in North Saanich was assessed at $1.4 million. The others had been assessed at between $270,000 and $318,000.
A few weeks ago, the quasi-judicial provincial Property Assessment Appeal Board, which hears appeals from Property Assessment Review Panel decisions, ruled the properties should be valued at just $20, citing their special use as a restriction in property value.
"The market for the restricted use is inexorably tied with the larger airport and the market for airports," the ruling states. "The properties themselves are not bought and sold in the market, and therefore, they cannot have a market value as stand-alone properties."
B.C. Assessment filed an appeal of the $20 valuations to the B.C. Supreme Court this week.
If the tower at Vancouver International Airport were assessed at just $20, the City of Richmond would lose about $80,000 a year in property tax revenue, said Mayor Malcolm Brodie, adding he had not been informed the company had appealed the assessment.
"That's ridiculous," Brodie said. "I think the air traffic controllers play a vital role and a pivotal role in the airport operation and should be assessed and taxed accordingly."
"If there were such a reassessment it would be unfair in the extreme and I'm sure every party who has an interest in it would be appealing it," he said. "Just because you have a unique use for a building or some property and it's zoned accordingly, to say that it has no value is just fiction."
Nav Canada has appealed the value on six parcels of land it controls at the airport on Sea Island with a total assessment of nearly $10.7 million. The air traffic control tower sits on a parcel of land valued at almost $9.9 million, B.C. Assessment said.
The entire airport complex contributes $7.6 million a year in revenue to Richmond, Brodie said.
Initial reports that Nav Canada would be disputing the property value of every single airport control tower in Canada are overstated, said national spokesman Ron Singer.
But numerous appeals are underway, including in this province, although he was unable to reveal which are being appealed.
"Where appropriate, we are appealing property assessments in other provinces as well as B.C. but not all control towers, certainly not," Singer said, adding it was a "matter of business prudence."
B.C. Assessment was similarly unable to provide a list of airports where appeals have been filed. There are 38 airports certified by the B.C. Transportation Ministry.
"At this point, we are not able to provide a full list of the locations and property values of 2013 Nav-Can appeals. As B.C. Assessment is pursuing a stated case on the Nav-Can decision and the matter is now before the courts, I am unable to comment further," said Tim Morrison, spokesman for the assessment board.
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