Irate False Creek residents are mulling their next move after an assessment appeal of prime waterfront land backfired in spectacular fashion, resulting in a nine-acre parcel of land now being valued at $1.
Members of the False Creek Residents Association appealed the $400,000 assessment of the property at 88 Pacific Blvd. on the basis that Concord Pacific, which had promised long ago to develop a park on the site and transfer it to the city as part of its redevelopment of the former Expo lands, generates significant annual income from the site. The company takes in money from parking, its on-site residential sales centre and leasing out space to seasonal events such as Cirque du Soleil, the association argued.
The Property Assessment Appeal Board agreed, finding the value of the property to be closer to $12-million – but then deducted the more than $17-million in costs associated with seawall construction and park improvements the company is obligated to complete.
"As these costs exceed the market value of the property, the property is assigned a nominal value of $1," the decision reads.
Fern Jeffries, co-chair of the False Creek Residents Association, said members were shocked and concerned by the decision. "You read through it and it's sounding good and then you see the dollar and it's like, 'Have they forgotten some zeros here? Is this a typo?'" she said.
"It just undermines the community amenity contribution strategy of the city," she said. "It's certainly something all taxpayers should be concerned with in terms of the notion of fair and equal taxation."
Ms. Jeffries, 67, said she is worried that she may never see the park become a reality in her lifetime.
Former Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor Tim Louis, who represented the association before the appeal board, said he was "outraged" by the decision.
"When you or I take out a mortgage on our property, it doesn't reduce the worth of our property," he said. "[B.C. Assessment] does not take into consideration the worth of any encumbrances that you have on your title in valuing your property."
"What they are doing with Concord Pacific in taking those obligations into consideration is something they do not do for everybody else. It's two different rules: one for all of us, and another rule for the deep-pocketed corporation."
The site's contaminated soil – a legacy of the area's industrial past that would have to be capped in place to prevent the movement of pollutants – factored into the decision. The appeal board noted in its decision that past rulings have recognized that costs to remediate contaminated soil have an influence on actual value.
No one from Concord Pacific was available to comment on the matter on Tuesday, but Matt Meehan, senior vice-president of planning, said in a statement that the company respects the work of B.C. Assessment. Concord will move forward with park development after the city's two-year study on the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, which will affect the park site, Mr. Meehan said.
"Like all parks we have provided to the city, we will provide it some time after the area has a plan that is approved by the city in its rezoning process. This is the last area our company is developing as part of the overall False Creek North plan."