A Hawkesbury landowner has been granted a refund of $44,407.67 in property taxes due to a change in the physical valuation category for the land, and because part of the site is leased to Hawkesbury and District General Hospital (HGH) for its heliport. The exemption and refund were approved at the October 25 council meeting. 

In November 2020, the Ontario Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) reported the valuation for 545 Industriel Boulevard had changed from category IX industrial vacant valued at $565,000 to mixed category IX industrial vacant valued at $427,1000 and CX commercial vacant valued at $1,449,900. 

According to documents presented to council by Treasurer Philippe Timbers, the owner of the property is 8362505 Canada Inc., with Anthony Assaly as President. In March 2021, the owner applied for the exemption.

Under Section 357 of the Municipal Act, property owners may apply for a refund of property taxes if the property became tax exempt during the previous year. Reimbursement can only be made for the year in which the property became tax exempt.

The exemption applies to the 15.175 acres the owner leases to HGH for the heliport, which is used for airlifting patients from Hawkesbury to other hospitals. The exemption was confirmed by MPAC in June 2021. The current lease agreement between the property owner and HGH is in effect until April 30, 2030. 

Timber’s report states he consulted with MTE, the town’s tax consultancy firm, and they identified some anomalies. Among them: it is unusual for a property to have a mixed use IX and CX designation by MPAC. However, the consultants determined the town had no real argument to contest the exemption for the part of the property used for the heliport. 

The total refund of $44,607.67 includes the share collected for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, and education. The Town of Hawkesbury’s total share is $23,010.51.  

According to Timbers, the town allocated $75,000 for the cancellation, reduction, or refund of taxes in the 2021 budget. Due to the elimination of the vacancy rebate program for commercial and industrial properties, and the provincial freeze in property assessments due to the pandemic, the actual impact on the municipal budget is $37,608. 

Mayor Paula Assaly declared a conflict of interest when granting the tax refund was being discussed and decided by council. Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis temporarily chaired the meeting, and the mayor left the council chamber. 

Assaly said she has no shares in the company that owns the land, but two of the partners in the ownership are her nephews, so she declared an apparent conflict of interest. 

“It’s the safest course of action,” the mayor said. 

The vacant land around the site was once home to the PPG glass plant. A significant multi-phase residential and commercial subdivision is proposed for the property. Councillor Yves Paquette said the hospital and town will have to discuss the future needs for a heliport and where it should be located, depending on the development plans around the existing heliport. 

The motion to grant the tax refund was proposed by Councillor Robert Lefebvre and seconded by Councillor Lawrence Bogue, before being approved unanimously by council.