Mark Rendell

Council Briefs: Tuesday, October 14

Property tax assessments to happen more often, Kam Lake residential zoning changes still being considered

More assessments, fewer tax hikes, council hopes

Eager to dodge future tax shocks like the one still rocking Kam Lake, city council voted unanimously on Monday to change the frequency of general property assessments to once every five years.

In the past, general assessments – which gauge property values for the purpose of taxation – happened every seven to 10 years. By reducing the time between assessments, the logic goes, property values won’t have as much time to change, making people less susceptible to undue tax hikes.

This year’s general assessment – the first in seven years – saw property values across Yellowknife increase around 30 per cent compared with 2007.

Taxes remained stable in many parts of the city because of reductions in mill rates – multipliers used to calculate taxes based on assessed property values. However, places hit by disproportionate spikes in property value benefited far less from lower mill rates.

Properties in Kam Lake, for example, went up by over 60 per cent leading to an average tax increase of 34.63 per cent; some property owners in Kam Lake reported increases of over 100 per cent.

“Doing a general assessments every five years should reduce the rate shock,” said Councillor Niels Konge, who moved the motion. “It should also provide the City with a better view of what we actually have for stock in the city. If our downtown is deteriorating we should be able to see that through the assessments, or if our residential is plummeting for some reason … we should be able to give the City a pretty good view of what’s going on economically.”

General assessments cost roughly $50,000, so the move means more spending on the City’s part. Konge, however, is confident the City can find the money without requiring more revenue, but said that’s a discussion for a future council to have in five years.

Rezoning Kam Lake discussion continues

During a municipal services committee discussion about rezoning Kam Lake, council was united in a desire to remove size restrictions on residential development, though there was less agreement on an alternative recommendation that residential properties be allowed without commercial requirements.

As it stands, each property in Kam Lake is meant to have a minimum of 93 square metres (about 1,000 square feet) dedicated to commercial use. This ensures the neighbourhood remains a business district rather than a more residential area.

There are already 23 purely residential buildings in Kam Lake and upwards of 52 that are predominantly residential, according to Jeff Humble, the City’s Director of Planning and Development.

Furthermore, “the majority (of people polled during community engagement sessions) said residential dwellings should be considered a permitted use without any size restrictions, without any size restrictions or commercial requirements,” he said.

Councillors opposed to the motion said allowing purely residential development in the area would use up valuable space that should be reserved for industrial and commercial businesses.

Those in favour argued there’s more demand for residential properties than commercial/industrial, and it makes little sense fighting the current shift towards a mixed-use neighborhood.

The issue won’t be back before council for several weeks.

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