Regina city council rejects developers' request for $700K tax pardon on former Capital Pointe site

·3 min read

Regina city council has rejected a developer's request for a property tax reduction.

Smith Street Lands proposed buying the property formerly slated to house Capital Pointe, but said it would only do the deal if city council reduced tax penalties on it by about $692,562.60.

Those penalties have been accumulating since July 2018.

Robert Goldman, president of Smith Street Lands, and lawyers Tony Merchant and Dave Brundige all spoke to council on the request on Wednesday. City administration recommended council deny the request.

"I've seen no information brought to my attention that would alter that opinion," Coun. Bob Hawkins (Ward 2) said Friday.

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

City council voted Wednesday to hold a private meeting with Smith Street Lands. At the Wednesday council meeting, the company indicated that it could disclose information about it splans for the site in a confidential meeting.

But Coun. Dan LeBlanc (Ward 6) said council was not given any new information during the private meeting, and was not shown what a development or proposed building on the site would look like.

"We heard some beautiful promises and we're being asked to put some blind faith," LeBlanc said Friday. "We're in the same situation today."

During the current pandemic, "we're dealing with citizens with unmet needs and we should not be catering with unmet wants," he said.

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

Mayor Sandra Masters said that's LeBlanc's opinion, but she felt prior to Friday morning's council meeting that she had enough information to make her decision.

"We we would absolutely love that property developed," she said. "At the end of the day, from a legal perspective, we were advised by our administration that this is unprecedented. We are not within the purview of the law to grant it."

A judicial sale was approved late last year for the property, and it is not currently owned by the city. However, if Smith Street Lands doesn't buy the land, the city will foreclose on the site in mid-2021 and it will become city property.

The Capital Pointe project was originally touted as a multimillion-dollar, 27-storey condo and hotel complex. But the only work done on the site was digging a giant hole, which the city eventually filled in last year for safety reasons.

The land was first posted for sale in April 2019 for $8.5 million.

Masters said the city is still hoping to collect the money it spent to fill the hole and back taxes, but that will happen when the property eventually sells. The city is first up to be paid if a purchaser is found, but Masters said she's "not particularly hopeful" a new buyer will be found before mid-2021.

The mayor and all councillors voted against the request, with the exception of Coun. John Findura (Ward 5). He voted to look at options to either provide the tax exemption or a conditional grant. He said he didn't want the city to be stuck with the land in the inventory.

"If we don't go this way then we are leaving this hole the way it is, that could be a parking lot with some grass, some trees on it and a bench," Findura said.

City council previously approved a temporary one-year parking lot for the property.

Matthew Howard/CBC
Matthew Howard/CBC