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Fearing loss of ferry terminal tax revenues, West Van goes to top B.C. court

Passengers make their way past waiting vehicles at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal in West Vancouver, B.C., on Jan. 22, 2012.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

West Vancouver is preparing for a legal battle over property taxes related to its BC Ferries terminal, and that has other mayors whose municipalities host ferries fearing they too could be facing a financial hit.

The city is taking the arm's-length board that hears appeals of property tax assessments to B.C. Supreme Court after the board downgraded the value of the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal from $47-million to $20.

The decision means the city will collect no tax from BC Ferries in future years, and is also required to repay property tax revenues collected for the past three years amounting to about $750,000.

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Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan, whose city has three BC Ferries terminals, calls the decision "totally unrealistic" and notes his city must still pay costs for water, roads and emergency services leading to the terminals.

He argues the province should step in to fix the legal loophole that resulted in the devaluation, which was based on the conclusion the properties have no market value because they have no other purpose than as a ferry terminal.

A spokeswoman for the Property Assessment Appeal Board says it's holding off until the Horseshoe Bay case is resolved before adjudicating other BC Ferries appeals, including for terminals in Swartz Bay and in the Courtenay-Comox area.

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