Tax request denied by Stettler County council, owner preferred farmland rate

·3 min read

Stettler County council denied a property owner’s request to waive part or all of their over $700 tax bill after the property owners balked at their market value assessment. The decision was made at the July 13 regular meeting of council.

Councillors heard the tax relief request as presented by Tax Clerk Sharon Larsen from owners of tax roll 636601, which was described as being located south of the Hamlet of Erskine.

“The ratepayers purchased a 10-acre parcel of land in April of 2021, which is presently used for their fifth wheel trailer and camping,” stated Larsen’s report, who explained later in the discussion the property owners live in the city and come out to camp on the property over the summer.

“They are aware, through a discussion with an assessor, about the change in the land status from farmland to market land. The change in land status caused a tax assessment change; causing taxes to increase from the $50 minimum tax levy to $738.36 (1,368 per cent) in a single year. The ratepayer is requesting council consider forgiveness of a portion of the 2022 tax levy.”

Larsen’s report included a letter from the property owners, who were unidentified as their names were redacted from the agenda package.

“Our assumption was that as long as we did not build or add services to the property our tax assessment would not increase, (subject to inflation).” stated the anonymous letter.

“We have enjoyed using our fifth wheel camping trailer on the property...being back to nature and a simpler way of life.”

“We spoke to the assessor and learned that the increase is due to the fact that the assessment has taken a couple of years to get caught up to the proper market value and zoning.”

The letter closed by asking councillors to reduce the tax bill in question, which the councillors have the authority to do under the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

During discussion Coun. Ernie Gendre asked if the property was previously used for farming. Larsen answered to the best of her knowledge the previous owner leased the property out.

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated the property is being used as an acreage and not for farming; there’s been a pad placed on the property to accommodate a camper.

When asked if the camper has a Stettler County permit, Cassidy answered that it does and the property owners remove the camper in the fall.

Nibourg responded that the situation includes a development permit on developed land so it gets no forgiveness in his books.

Coun. Justin Stevens stated he recently took subdivision development appeal board training and noted it seems every time something like this has come to court, it’s been defeated; the actual use of the land is the primary consideration, and cited industrial users storing materials on agricultural land and asking that it still be taxed as farmland.

“I think the courts kind of decided this one for us,” said Stevens.

Nibourg asked his peers what the nightly cost of local campgrounds is, which Gendre responded $30 to $50 a night. Nibourg then noted a monthly stay would be over $700, compared to these property owner’s annual tax bill of about the same amount.

“This is pretty cheap camping,” said Nibourg.

Councillors unanimously denied the request to reduce the tax bill in question.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

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