Thursday, August 25, 2016

Town Council hears from Creekside Condos delegation regarding concerns about roads and taxes

Toni Lucas - Dr. Tom Halbert was the spokesperson for a delegation from the senior residential complex Creekside Condos at the regular meeting of Town council on Monday, August 22, 2016.  Creekside Condos representatives previously appeared before Town Council on July 28, 2015.  At that time the delegation asked the Town of Pincher Creek the Town of Pincher Creek to assume ownership of the road Adelaide Crescent and all roads in front of the different Creekside Condo units. (Click here for that story.)

The delegation said the residents of Creekside Condos are the only residents in Pincher Creek who are in the position of owning and being responsible for the roadway adjacent to their property.   The condo residents maintained at that time they do not receive the same services as other private residences within Pincher Creek does.  Services such as snow removal, street cleaning, streetlight maintenance and repair, and sidewalk and pavement repair. Now in August 2016 the delegation stated they have three separate concerns:  The ownership of the roadways, property taxes, and a concern that they are not being heard on these issues by Town administration or council members.

In addition to the concerns of the roadway being owned by the individuals within the condo association, Halbert listed 12 specific concerns to do with taxes.  They are itemized in the report below.

Mayor Anderberg thanked Halbert for the presentation. "We will take this all under consideration."  He added, "The conversation that we had before really didn't centre around taxation, at all."  Halbert answered that their primary focus is the ownership responsibility of the roads. Anderberg  further said "In my understanding, through the taxation rules and regulations,  we send a tax notice every year.  There's an appeal period for everybody to appeal their taxes, and I'm not aware of any appeals from this group in the least not this year." "We will take your package, and address it in due course.  Thank you very much for your presentation."

The usual process when a delegation presents a concern to council is that the concern is brought forward at a later council meeting for discussion by council.  This allows time for administration and council to gather information and fact check. There are many possibilities after that.  It is unusual for council to address the concerns of a delegation during the same meeting, although it will be considered by council if all the facts of the presentation are before them, and a time restraint has been voiced by the delegation.  One example of which would be a request for a letter of support.

The following is a copy of the 6 page report read and handed out at the council meeting without the financial statements, signature sheet, and location site maps.

Public Statement to Pincher Creek Town Council August 22, 2016, as read by Dr. Tom Halbert

If any data stated in this public statement or supporting documents are inaccurate we apologize and are prepared to make a public statement of retraction if any inaccuracies are found to unfairly reflect on the statements made. Information included is public information as stated on various web sites and the data compiled is attached.

1. We would have preferred to have met with our elected representatives informally. We tried on three separate occasions to arrange meetings with our Mayor and Councillors. All requests were denied and it is rather apparent that our elected representative did not wish to meet with Creekside Village Condos electors, to discuss our concerns, even though they receive an unreported and non-taxable general expense allowance for various expenses including meeting with electors or groups. We also wonder and do not believe the Mayor and Town Council would have refused to meet with Walmart, the Co-op, Whispering Winds, Ramada and UFA if any single one of them requested an informal meeting to discuss concerns. Yet three of these have lower property assessments than 500 Adelaide Crescent. We are not a business rather a Senior Residential Complex.

2. We have two separate but related areas of concern: Roads and Property Taxes. Our primary concern is to have the Town acquire the roads so that Creekside Village Electors/Owners receive the same benefits as other residential properties in the Town of Pincher Creek. The fact that we have had a disproportionate increase in our property taxes is also important. The data analyzed, compiled and attached to this report is a direct result of our request to have the Town acquire the roads. In addition, there are complaints from Owners re: their increase in property taxes as well as comments made by prospective buyers about the high property taxes.

3. Roads:
Since the information provided us at our last meeting with Council did not correlate with our knowledge and understanding the Alberta Land Titles Office was contacted. Mr. Dwain MacNeill, Supervisor, Alberta Land Titles responded, to our email query, by telephone and email the next day. He stated that there were two ways the roads could be assumed by the Town. He also stated that this has occurred previously in the Province, that the width of the roads did not matter and that the roads could be gravel or other. Either method of assuming the roads requires a survey by an approved surveyor and are not a difficult process. However, if the Town acquires it may be slightly easier than transferring. The procedures to acquire or transfer are clearly laid out and can be handled by administrative staff.

We have been given various reasons, by Council, for The Town not approving taking over the roads. Something which should have been the Town’s responsibility for the past 15+ years since we are taxed the same as all other residents. Most recent we were again provided the argument that it is private property and members of Council were taxed in the same manner for their private property. That, most definitely, is the issue; the roads are on private property and should not be. They should be owned by the Town not by each of the individual Owner of Creekside Village on a per unit basis. Since there is no longer an assessment against the common property each individual owner(s) is assessed for the roads. This does not occur with other residential properties. What was not mentioned is that other Residential Properties are taxed from the street or sidewalk in front of their property to the alley, if any, behind. That is not the case with the electors/owners at Creekside Village who are additionally responsible for the roads.

We were also advised that the Town could not determine if the roads met Town specifications. The Developer has once again assured us that they meet or exceed requirements. An examination of the roads will support this by a simple comparison of their condition to other paved streets that are 15+ years old. The roads are all public access and there is no problem with heavy equipment such as the town garbage truck, fire and emergency trucks and equipment, paving equipment and other using the roads. Further, whether or not they meet town specifications is not an issue since the Town is able to acquire the roads irrespective of the condition. The width of the roads and alley, whether they are gravel or paved does not have any specific bearing on the decision to acquire the roads. In fact, if the roads are gravel and a request is made to have them paved, it is our understanding, that the Town is empowered to impose a special levy to pay for the paving.

Further, it was mentioned that it would be difficult for the Town to clear the roads of snow during the winter because of the size of the snow removal equipment. This we do not see as an issue if the Town permits us to remove the snow on the roads. Presently, which has been in effect since the Condos were built, the Owners require that contract services be provided so their driveways and sidewalks are cleared after a snow fall. This being the case it makes sense to clear the streets at the same time (no cost to the Town) so that snow is piled on the side of the roads rather than the road itself. There is no expectation that this practice will be discontinued presently or in the future. It seems rather senseless to leave the snow piled on the road and wait for the Town snow removal equipment. Further, since the Town has a limited budget for snow removal it is noticeable that snow removal on Adelaide Street is very limited.

In addition, we were given a detailed verbal statement by the representative from the Old Man Regional Planning Commission as to the possible issues pertaining to problems relating to Fee Simple and Strata Titles. Neither of these cause any hindrance whatsoever to the Town acquiring the roads.

4. Property Taxes:

a.)  From 2013 to 2014 Creekside Village Condos 500 Adelaide Crescent had their Property Tax Assessment increased dramatically. From 2013 to 2014 the Land Assessment was increased by $316,660.00 and Improvements by $264,010.00 for a total increase of $580,670.00. The common property was increased, included above, by a total of $96,740.00.

b.)  In 2015 the Common property taxes were transferred to individual Owners thus the assessed common property value of $482,950.00 became the responsibility of individual owners (fair enough since rather than paying the Corporation who then paid the Town the Owner became directly responsible). However, in addition to the $482,950.00 Assessment transferred. There was an additional increase in the Land Assessment of $203,570.00 as well as an additional increase in assessed improvements of $149,870.00 for a total additional assessment increase of $353,440.00.

c.)  Thus, the total assessed increase from 2013 – 2015 was a staggering amount of nearly one million dollars ($934,110.00) resulting in 500 Adelaide Crescent becoming the third highest assessed taxable property in Town (linear and non-taxable property excluded). This is nearly as much as the total 2015 assessment for West Castle Motors ($974,830.00) and more than the total assessment of the 46 units at Foothills Motel ($859,760.00). It is incomprehensible how anyone can justify this type of an assessment increase to any small Town property and in particular to senior citizens. We can’t help wondering what the repercussions would have been if this amount of an increase (on a percentage basis) was levied against any other of the top 22 assessed properties in Pincher Creek and in particular Walmart and Ranchland Mall the only two properties that have a higher assessment then Creekside Village Condos.

d.)  Land assessment over these two years was increased by nearly 125% (124.35%) resulting in 500 Adelaide Crescent having the highest taxable land assessment also nearly one million dollars ($938,590.00) in the Town of Pincher Creek (linear and non-taxable property excluded). Again same comment as in “C” above.

e.)  Owners were informed in 2014, by the Town Assessor, that the assessed values were increased since we were one of the few, if not the only, properties in Town where the market value increased. In 2015 we were informed we had no option that the common area taxation had to be transferred to individual owners in spite of our desire for that not to occur. The increase in market value should have occurred between 2013 and 2014 and yet there was an additional increase over and above the transfer of the Common property assessment totaling $353,440.00 in 2015. Again how can this be justified?

f.)  Although we question the taxable values, our primary concern is the excessive increase over a two-year period. Trying to establish market value in a small town can be very difficult due to the lack of comparables. This is particularly true when the Assessor is also expected not to include the sale if it was a result of a buyer being anxious to buy or a seller anxious to sell. In both cases these sales should be excluded, if known. Market value does not mean the same as selling price. The Assessor thus has a very difficult job when the comparables are limited and we are not questioning his attempt to be fair. Usually though properties are listed higher and tend to sell at a higher value than the assessed value. Recently, August 2016, a unit in Creekside Village has sold (only one unit has sold so far in 2016) at a price well below the assessed value. Was this property sold at fair market value? If so it is then possible that all properties at 500 Adelaide Crescent are over assessed. Are all owners then entitled to a refund for the over taxation? The sale may also be judged to be a result of an anxious seller. Whether the present sale is a result of an anxious seller, the previous comparables were high because of anxious buyers or they were fair market value remains to be determined. However, based on available data it appears they are fairly significantly over assessed and Owners should not have paid the Taxes they were required to pay. Again, should they all receive a refund?

g.)  Some of our Residential Owners were even harder hit. Three Owners saw their land Assessment increased nearly 850%, in one year (2014 to 2015). In 2014 each of these individual unit’s land assessments was $4,960.00. In 2015 it was increased to $47,060.00 per unit an increase of $42,100.00 or 848.79%. In addition, they also had their improvement assessments increased resulting in total increases ranging from approximately $62,500.00 to $71,000.00. It is evident that these owners were probably under assessed in prior years but that then raises the possibility that other owners were thus over assessed in prior years. Regardless of the reason: How does one justify? How could our elected representatives approve, condone and justify such irrational increases? No notice, no discussion, no input and no explanation other than stated in item “e” above. It was just done and these three owners as well as the other Senior Citizens at 500 Adelaide Crescent were required to pay the highest taxation increases in the Town of Pincher Creek in both 2014 and 2015. In fact, these three Senior Owners may well have received the highest percentage increase for one year of any residential owner in the history of Pincher Creek. It would be interesting to find out.

h.)  An analysis was done on the highest taxable assessed properties in Pincher Creek (linear and non-taxable properties were excluded). Twenty-two properties were identified. The highest assessed property was Walmart followed by Ranchland Mall and Creekside Village Condos followed by Whispering Winds, Ramada and UFA. From 2013 to 2015 the Assessed values of these 22 properties was increased by roughly two and a half million dollars ($2,467,420.00). The assessed value of 500 Adelaide Crescent increased by roughly one million dollars (934,110.00). Thus, Creekside Village Condos increased assessment amounted to roughly forty percent (37.86%) of the total increase.

i.)  During this same period Land assessment increased for the 22 properties by $767,530.00; 500 Adelaide Crescent accounted for $520,230.00 of this increase or nearly 70% (67.78).

j.)  Out of the twenty-two properties identified Creekside Village Condos, a Senior Residential Complex, is the only one that is not “For Profit” (19 properties) or Government supported (2 properties).

k.)  A further analysis was done relating to the property taxes and published salaries of comparable sized towns and a few others in Southern Alberta for 2015. Comparable towns reviewed were Fort Macleod, Cardston, Claresholm and Raymond. Based on a per person basis the property tax per person for Pincher Creek was $1,133.34 as compared to the Seniors living in Creekside Village Condos who paid $1,601.10 per person. The average per person property tax for Pincher Creek was significantly higher than any other Town. The average property tax per person was $807.52 for comparable Towns with Pincher Creek showing as 140.35% above the average. All other towns were below the average (Seniors at Creekside village paid double the average). Average User Fees collected per person was $690.0.33 with Pincher Creek receiving $531.67 per person or 77.02% of the average, the lowest of the comparable group of towns. The results clearly indicate that the Town of Pincher Creek’s property taxes are significantly higher and user fees significantly lower, on a per person basis, then other comparably sized towns in Southern Alberta. Thus, the higher tax rate, the significant amount our Seniors pay on a per person basis, 141.27% above the Town’s per person average, and the unwarranted increase in property tax assessments to the Senior Citizens of Creekside Village Condos, we contend, is unjustifiable, not only locally but also in comparison to other Southern Alberta Towns.

l.)  All Seniors who are dependent upon on Old Age Security (OAS), Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and other Government/Private pensions are already under pressure because of the relationship of their pension increases to the Alberta Consumer Price Index (CPI). The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is set at 60% of the CPI for indexed pensions. For 2014 and 2015 the combined increase for those of us with indexed pensions was 2.23% for this period vs our cost of living which increased by 3.73% during the same period. At the same time some of our elected representatives saw their salary, between 2014-2015 (one year), increased substantially. The purpose of the above is simply to point out the dramatic pressure placed on all seniors in trying to cope with the increasing cost of living. As a group of Seniors we have reached the conclusion, possibly wrongly, that our elected representatives could really care less about our predicament since they are not interested in meeting with us unless through formal channels; appear to have no qualms about the extremely high increase in our assessments and are not interested in treating us fairly by acquiring the roads in our complex, which should have occurred 15+ years ago. Thus, leaving our Owners with the total and complete responsibility for all road and infrastructure maintenance, upgrades, replacements, and repairs. We do not have any access to Government grants such as those received by the Town. At the same time the Town has proven it has no concern or problem in dramatically increasing our assessments, on both a percentage and a dollar basis, more than any other resident or business in Pincher Creek as well as forcing us to pay the same tax rate, as other properties, who have their roads and infrastructure taken care of by the Town. We are now the third highest taxable assessed property in Town as well as being the only residential owner occupied property in the top twenty-two highest assessed taxable properties in the Town of Pincher Creek. The Town has managed to increase our property taxes at a staggering rate far beyond any other residence or business in the town, from 2013 to 2015, and does not appear interested or prepared to provide the same services as provided to other residences and businesses.

In our opinion, failure by Town Council to acquire the roads and alley access simply reinforces the bias we believe exists against the Senior Citizens of Creekside Village Condos. At minimum, our Town Council should, at least, significantly reduce the mill rate for our properties in order to compensate for the taxes paid for non-services over the past 15+ years as well as the excessive recent ones for 2013-2015. It is totally unjust and unfair to increase assessments for any property owner at the level we have been subjected to and in addition not provide the same services and benefits as other rate payers receive. However, we still hope that our elected representatives on Town Council will re: consider their opposition to our request and agree to acquire the roads and alley access identified as 500 Adelaide Crescent. All we request is equality, fairness, and the same treatment as provided other ratepayers.

5) As a Result:

The Electors and Owners of Creekside Village Condominium Corporation No. 9611263 make the following formal request to our Elected Representatives:


To: The Council of the Town of Pincher Creek of the Municipality of Pincher Creek, in the Province of Alberta.


1) From 2013 to 2015 the appraised Land Value of Creekside Village Condos was increased by the Town of Pincher Creek $520,230.00 approximately 125% and the appraised improvements Value $413,880.00 approximately 10% for a total increase of $934,110.00 approximately 20% or nearly one million dollars in two years. Taxes paid for Town Services (excluding schools) increased nearly twenty percent during this same period even though there was a mill rate decrease.

2) Creekside Village Condos assessments are based on the inclusion of private roads and alley access since those roads and alley access are not Town property as opposed to other Town residential property Owners who are assessed for the property from the access street in front of their homes to the alley and are not assessed for the roads and alley that allow access to their property.

3) Creekside Village Condo Owners are responsible for maintenance, repair and all infrastructure related to the access roads and alley access which is not the case with other residential property owners in the Town of Pincher Creek.

4) Each and all Creekside Village Condo Owners are taxed in an identical manner as other residential property owners and yet do not receive any assistance for road maintenance, repairs and infrastructure thus denying Creekside Village Owners, for the past 15+ years, the same benefits as other residential property owners.

5) As a Senior Residential Complex many of our Senior Owners live on a set pension and the extremely high increase in the assessed values of their properties resulting in a very substantial increase in 1heir property taxes over a two-year period plus the additional potential cost of having to pay for road, alley access and infrastructure maintenance and repairs, that are not required of other property Owners, places a difficult burden and hardship upon our Senior Owners.

6) Property taxes are used to finance local programs and services, such as:

  • Garbage collection (Paid through Utilities - additional cost approx. $500.00 per month) Water and sewer services (Included in Utilities Bill)
  • Road construction and maintenance (Creekside Condos pays receives nil direct benefits)
  • Parks and leisure facilities (Benefit received if used)
  • Police and fire protection (Paid through Separate Emergency Services Tax) Seniors' lodges (Paid through separate Lodge Tax)
  • Education (Paid through Separate School Tax)

7) The Developer has advised us that the roads, within Creekside Village Condos, meet or exceed all the stipulated requirements for road construction within the Town of Pincher Creek. and

8) The Town of Pincher Creek can acquire condominium land for a road, as has occurred in other municipalities, by an agreement with the Owner(s), title to the land is vested in the Crown in the right of Alberta, by filing a plan of survey at the Land Titles Office. A transfer of land is not generally required. (See Alberta Land Titles Procedures SUR-5 Surveys - Examination of Road Plans and Other Public Works Plans) or if acquiring the land is not feasible can assume ownership by a transfer of Title (See Alberta Land Titles Procedures CDE-1 Instruments Registered Pursuant to the Condominium Property Act).

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