Meeting held April 18, 2023
MPAC assessments delayed, process explained
With Deputy Mayor Jamie Restoule chairing as Mayor Kathleen Thorne-Rochon attended the Ontario Good Roads Conference in Toronto, delegate Steve McArthur of the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) explained how his organization impacts property owners’ tax bills. With a brand new council in West Nipissing, McArthur introduced how assessment works and how it affects taxation. “I cover a territory from West Nipissing to Temagami in the north, to Mattawa,” he explained, having 19 different municipalities under his purview. While the town sets the taxation rate based on its budget, MPAC decides what each property in town is worth, and that dollar amount is multiplied by the tax rate to determine what a property owner will pay.
“We are a not-for-profit corporation funded by the municipalities. We serve 444 municipalities in Ontario… You determine what you need to spend… to operate the municipality and we deliver the assessment roll to you and ultimately at the end of the line is the property owner… and they share the property taxes for the community services and education that’s provided within the municipality…. We have 5.5 million properties that we take care of around the province and in addition …we do forecasting and market analysis and trends. We’re always watching what’s happening in terms of the sales, the new builds and all the construction that’s going on,” said McArthur.
MPAC also handles reconsiderations and appeals when the property owner does not agree with the assessment. McArthur explained that assessment reviews take place every four years, but COVID interfered with the last assessment. “In 2020 we were two weeks from going out. With our assessment notices … it’s like our Olympics. We reassess every property.” The government paused the reassessment and a new reassessment date has not yet been announced by the province. “So right now, all the properties continue to be based on what they would have been worth on January 1st, 2016.”
When the new assessment is undertaken, any increases are phased in with increments over the four years. Location is a major determinant of residential value, waterfront pointed out in particular, as well as lot size, quality of construction and square footage. Every building and every plan is now uploaded into the MPAC system, which McArthur characterized as a “great improvement” in the service to municipalities because of the speed of reassessment, when it occurs, providing new revenue to municipalities.
With the real estate market soaring, McArthur predicts some will be surprised by their next assessment. “So when the reassessment comes, and again, I reiterate, I don’t know when… but we know everyone around here has seen what’s happened in the real estate market… and it’s not just West Nipissing, it’s the entire region; the building, the sale prices continue to go up … it’s been a very desirable place for people to come live… There’s been a migration out of big cities towards this area. So when the reassessment comes, we’re anticipating that we will have some questions.”
He explained how to get those questions addressed. “When you get your property assessment notice, on it there is a unique login key for …myproperty.ca …(You) can see the details of up to 20 similar sized properties or neighbours’ properties to know whether your value is on par with the rest and [the system] allows you through that process to submit a request for reconsideration if you don’t agree with the value that’s been assessed… What’s it worth? What’s it classified as? Commercial, industrial, residential. …The municipality uses that to set the tax rates based on those different property types and everyone pays the property taxes based on their fair share.”
McArthur reiterated that MPAC’s role is to make sure the assessment is correct. “We haven’t had a reassessment in eight years, and we’ve seen what’s going on in the market… I can tell you anecdotally that West Nipissing is doing very, very well. You were second only, for the 19 municipalities, to the City of North Bay in terms of growth and construction, and that’s kudos to everyone (in) making it a desirable place to live.” He concluded, “It’s important that Council will understand the relationship between assessment and taxation, but it’s also equally important that you don’t have to answer questions about assessment. That’s my job and that’s our staff’s job.”
No Cut Policy review
Shawn Remillard, Manager of Public Works, asked council to review the matter of exemptions to the No Cut Policy, which stipulates that once a road has been surfaced it cannot be cut for five years by anyone who wants to develop a property to connect to water/sewer/gas or other underground utilities, without receiving an exemption from council. “Basically, the policy is there to protect our current assets and to prolong the life of our assets,” said Remillard. “That’s the intent and purpose. It’s not to hinder anyone… Every year when we award projects for resurfacing, all the utilities – gas, Bell, hydro, they are all circulated on which roads are going to be paved this upcoming summer, as well as directly impacted property owners.” The letter explains to everyone, including owners of empty lots, that the road will be subject to a 5-year no-cut policy. Remillard also explained that problems arise when property changes hands. “A new property owner comes in and says, well, I bought this property to build this home and now they can’t. They can’t get water or sewer, or they can’t get gas,” which has been problematic. Clerk Melanie Ducharme advised that all road segments are now mapped so that any property inquiries will reveal roads subject to the policy.
Remillard suggested that exemptions be handled through the building permit process or that council consider abolishing the policy altogether if they plan to grant exemptions to everyone who requests one. He noted that this has been recent practice. “It seems like any request that would come to council would be approved. That said, why do we need the policy? If it’s going to be a rubber stamp, all we’re doing is hindering developers …delaying the entire process. So if it’s council’s wish to not have a policy and if we’re going to approve every single one, then I would recommend we abolish the policy.”
He asked council for direction. “If we could identify specific situations where an exemption should be considered then we could avoid all the delays …For special situations, cuts may be done by a third party, but reinstatement will be completed by the municipality and all costs will be charged back to the contractor. That’s currently not happening.” Additionally, utilities use their own contractors, they don’t want to put down security deposits, according to Remillard, and Public Works has to engage with the property owner to put down security deposits. He suggested the municipality needs to maintain control on standards of repair. Remillard said that a newly surfaced road is expected to last five years before beginning to deteriorate.
Coun. Roch St-Louis said he believed a policy was required, but exceptions should be included, that “the property owner will only use a vendor or contractor approved by the municipality,” and the same would apply to outside utilities to ensure “the work being done is reviewed or looked at by [Public Works and] is up to our codes and our standards.” Coun. Kris Rivard noted that emergency situations, broken watermains or sewage back-up, would be obvious causes for exemptions. He also suggested that with road cuts, an angled seam to the repaired surface would last longer than a straight seam, which collects water and heaves sooner. Remillard agreed, “When you cut the entire road you eliminate the longitudinal seams [which are] bad, they deteriorate quicker than a traverse seam… [Tires hit the seam] on an angle and those seams typically would last longer… We can look at language within the policy that when restoration occurs, we want it restored in this manner… to prevent premature deterioration of that cut.”
Considering the cost of constant patch cut roads, Coun. Dan Gagné, Chair of Public Works, directed Remillard to draft a policy for review.
Past issues and safety concerns over RVs using the filling and dumping station on Coursol Road impelled a recommendation to close that site and construct a filling station at a new location. Shawn Remillard asked council for direction on the new site, and whether users should be charged for the service, which is currently free on Coursol. The proposed site would be approached from Hwy 17, between the Comfort Inn and Tremblay Chevrolet, on municipal land adjacent to Floral Street. “That would be a good location and not in a residential area,” said Remillard. The development of the site is not in this year’s budget, but Remillard wanted direction so as to be ready for any change.
Coun. Anne Tessier wanted to know if there was any misuse at the current site and was told that utility trailers with 1000 cubic meter totes had been witnessed during the summer months. Manager of Corporate Services, Alisa Craddock, added that the town gets frequent calls reporting infractions by large tankers filling up, car washing, etc. She said the suggested site sees less traffic and could include a payment system, “because the ratepayers shouldn’t necessarily be covering for folks passing through” with large tankers. The proposed site could also be set up for waste disposal. She added that many municipalities no longer provide the filling/dumping service at all. Remillard added that the proposed site is next to a municipal yard equipped with CCTV, which would deter any vandalism.
Councilors in general preferred a user pay system that would also offset the cost of infrastructure, would still support tourism in the area, and prevent misuse. Coun. Courchesne wanted to also look at the situations in Verner and Field, but Craddock indicated those discussions should be handled separately. Remillard concurred, suggesting not to buy three machines, but use the site in Sturgeon Falls as a test case before proceeding. Stephan Poulin, Director of Economic Development and Community Services, cited both environmental issues and economic issues, the prevention of illegal dumping in ditches and encouraging tourism, as good reasons to support the establishment of the new site. “I do think there is a benefit to having them in our community,” he opined.
Coun. St-Louis noted that proper signage on the highway was necessary for safety, and that local citizens using the service are aware there’s a cost. Coun. Gagné added, “Make sure that when we do the financial analysis that it’s a cost zero recovery. We’re not there to make money, but as I am a taxpayer for water and sewer, I pay for it, so I’d like for people that are from out of town… to do the same thing, pay their share of what they’re actually taking.”
Industrial Tax Ratio finalized
Alisa Craddock was asked to come back to council with a rationalization for possibly lowering the Large Industrial tax ratio. “I did say I’d bring back sort of where other municipalities are sitting around us. …We’re looking to want to be attractive to potential investment to come here. I put the 2.5 because …it does keep us lower than our neighbours, competitive to our neighbors. …We had Mr. MacArthur here from MPAC earlier and we had the discussion last time about whether large industrial puts more burden on our costs, on our infrastructure, on our system… The 2.5 in there keeps us kind of in the middle of the pack.” She said that developers checking out the municipal website might be put off when they see the much higher rate. Coun. St-Louis said, “I definitely support it at the 2.5 and let’s see if we can attract people and go from there. And if not then we’ll revisit it next year.” The new Large Industrial rate of 2.5 was approved.
Cache Bay Trailer Park
The tender for the management, operation and maintenance of the Cache Bay Trailer Park was awarded to Bernard and Micheline Guenette, one of two bidders, with the highest rating score for meeting all established criteria.
Council granted permission to Pride West Nipissing for temporary street closures on June 10th for a Pride Parade beginning at 1:00 PM through the town of Sturgeon Falls.