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The Globe and Mail

Changing assessments near Vancouver viaducts taxing to city, developers and residents

Concord Pacific's Cooper's Point towers have been painted sulphur yellow, ochre and terracotta.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

With the future of Vancouver's viaducts up in the air, landowners that own property near the twin roadways are considering options for development and when it could take place.

Part of that puzzle involves property-tax assessments, which in some cases have been reduced even as talk of an urban makeover is under way.

Assessments for four Concord Pacific-owned lots that share the address of 10 Pacific Blvd. – which curves by B.C. Place Stadium – were reduced significantly between 2011 and 2012, trimming the overall assessed value by $22.4-million, according to figures from the B.C. Assessment Authority.

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For the city, lowered assessments on that chunk of property and another Concord-owned site, 80 Expo Blvd., amount to a $500,000 reduction in tax revenues, says Patrice Impey, Vancouver's general manager of financial services.

"As a result of the [landowner's] assessment appeals in 2010 and 2011, the property tax difference between the original assessment and revised assessment for these properties is $500,000," Ms. Impey said in an e-mailed response to questions about the two sites from The Globe and Mail.

Assessment appeals and valuation adjustments are "not uncommon" in any given year, Ms. Impey said, adding that the city's annual budget-planning process takes property reassessments into account and that this year's tax rates reflect the new valuations.

Property taxes account for about 61 per cent of revenues for the city, which spends about $1-billion a year on services ranging from police and fire departments to skating rinks.

Assessments for other neighbourhood sites have swung in the other direction. 10 Terry Fox Way, a triangular site nestled next to B.C. Place and also owned by Concord, was assessed at $21-million for 2012 compared with $3-million last year, according to B.C. Assessment.

Fluctuating assessments are part of a bigger picture involving some of the last undeveloped sites in downtown Vancouver and the viaducts. Built in the 1970s as part of a freeway that was cancelled after public backlash, the roadways are now being eyed for removal.

The assessments are also linked to ongoing disagreements between Concord and the False Creek Residents Association, which has for years lobbied for a promised park in the neighbourhood and maintains Concord has benefited from unrealistically low tax rates on some of its properties.

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The neighbourhood group has two appeals of assessments for Concord properties under way at the B.C. Property Assessment Appeal Board.

The B.C. Assessment Authority would not comment in detail on reduced assessments for the two Concord properties, saying the sites are tied to ones currently under appeal.

But in general, assessed property values reflect development possibilities under the [Northeast False Creek] Official Development Plan, B.C. Assessment spokesman Dharmesh Sisodraker said in an e-mail.

Concord vice-president Matthew Meehan also declined to discuss the drop in assessed values for the four lots at 10 Pacific Blvd., one of which dropped from $13-million in 2011 to $6.2-million in 2012.

"We do not feel that it is appropriate to comment while it is in the appeal process," Mr. Meehan said in an e-mail.

Part of the site at 10 Pacific Blvd. is home to Solefood, an urban farming operation that began operating on the site in May.

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Concord is providing the two-acre site free of charge and has said it will put any tax savings that result – which the company has estimated at about $15,000 and that won't be known until after next year's assessment – into a foundation for "green" projects such as urban farms.

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