Opinion: Hear that? It’s MPAC rollin’ down the track

By Mike Williscraft


A couple of things to touch on, so let’s jump in.

Yes, there is a new filing in the $18 million civil claim regarding the biodigester in Grimsby. No, I am not going to add a single thing to it. All docs – the claim, the defence and reply – are all on our website. You can read all to your heart’s content and hopefully we’ll see this issue coming to a courtroom not-so-close to you soon.

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Number one this week is the looming spectre of new valuations to come from MPAC.

If you don’t know who MPAC is, you will soon.

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation are the friendly folk who determine how much your property is valued at, a key component when it comes to arriving at how much each property owner will pay in taxes.

West Lincoln got its first look (and conversation) about it Monday night with a delegation giving an overview of the upcoming process.
Normally, and what is “normal” anymore, an MPAC valuation is not an earth-shattering thing. Assessments are rolled out every four years.

Usually, in that window of time values don’t fluctuate massively, but it can happen.

Case in point was post-2004 when Greenbelt legislation was announced. Property in Niagara West, especially Grimsby/Beamsville, shot up 20-25 per cent in the space of six months.

The MPAC rolled through on the backend and taxes jumped significantly.

In the last four years, Grimsby Lincoln and Smithville have seen major intensity on residential growth all timed prior to and after the greenlight being given to GO Transit coming to Niagara. When the station for Grimsby was announced, housing prices in town jumped another 15-20 per cent almost overnight.

In the last couple of years valuations have continued to climb. Lincoln and West Lincoln, too, have had major developments come on line with even more in the hopper. This area is one of the hottest real estate markets in Ontario and the next round of MPAC valuations will show that.

So why do I mention this now?

I can guarantee you, there will be people literally taxed out of their homes. Seniors on fixed incomes and young families dancing on the poverty line will have their household incomes snowed under. It will be no fault of their own. They won’t have moved into a house they could not afford.

Indeed, some folks may live in the only home they have ever known, but land values will have gone up all around them and economic tide will wash them away.

I saw many examples of this in the early 90s in Rideau Twp, south of Ottawa, when I was working there. MPAC assessments came out when the proposed new Hwy. 16 connection from Ottawa to Prescott was rolling right by Manotick, home of one of the community newspapers I served.

Many seniors who lived in very modest homes on the Rideau Canal (which ran through town) were priced out their homes to the extent where the municipality agreed to register taxes owing on title, so people could live in the homes until they chose to sell. At that time, taxes owing were taken from sale proceeds.

Rural West Lincoln will be susceptible to this as will some homes in Grimsby as I think they will see the largest swings in their property values.

It is not pretty.

So while many of you will have been wringing your hands in anticipation of your property value continuing to escalate, the day of reckoning for that windfall approaches.

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Coun. Randy Vaine made a couple of points Monday night at council regarding the proposed expansion for Peach King Arena.
While he noted his comments were somewhat in response to a Letter to The Editor in last week’s edition, he said it was important to clarify that the elements of the grant submission were based in the recreation Master Plan which was initiated last year and rolled out in the early summer. Simply, “needs” were based on considerable input from residents.

I can say, Master Plans are not simple reports or documents. They are extremely comprehensive. As well they should be, given that they are expected to provide a road map for about 20 years of planning for the department for which they are created.

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