COLD LAKE – In a public hearing at the Cold Lake regular council meeting on Jan. 23rd, residents voiced their concerns about the Residential and Non-Residential Property Assessment Sub-Class bylaw. Residents argue that increasing the costs would only cause more issues for the community. 

The city is considering a bylaw to establish distinct tax categories for vacant lands. This approach enables the council to set different tax rates, with the goal of discouraging the prolonged holding of undeveloped properties. 

One of the voices during the hearing was resident Ray Gillis who raised questions about the potential financial implications of additional sub-classes. Gillis expressed his worries, stating, “I’ve done some research on this, and one of my concerns is having additional sub-classes that could cost the City more in the actual assessment each year, and I’m just here wondering what that additional cost would be.” 

Gillis emphasized the potential impact on individuals who purchase vacant lots with the intention of retiring in Cold Lake. He argued that imposing additional taxes on vacant properties might discourage prospective retirees, potentially affecting the city’s growth and development. 

Another speaker was Ray Cowell, representing the Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Cowell explained the Chamber’s opposition to the proposed vacant land tax bylaw, emphasizing the need for incentives over taxation. He stated, “I don’t really believe there are solutions to problems, only trade-offs, and so when looking at the proposed bylaw, we looked at it from the chamber from an incentivize kind of perspective.” 

Cowell argued that imposing an additional tax on vacant land could hinder economic development, potentially stifling growth in the city. He suggested that the city explore alternative strategies, such as offering incentives to developers rather than burdening them with higher taxes. 

Mark Power, a Cold Lake resident and land developer, emphasized his concerns, stating, “The City of Cold Lake already has the highest mill rate in northeast Alberta, we pay more residential tax than anybody else in our region.” He pointed out that raising taxes on vacant land might hinder development, particularly in contrast to neighbouring municipalities like Bonnyville, which are actively implementing tax incentive programs to stimulate growth. 

Power urged the council to consider the long-term effects of such a decision, pointing out that developers sell lots rather than build houses. He stressed the importance of looking at examples from municipalities closely aligned with Cold Lake rather than adopting policies from areas with higher demand. 

In response to these concerns, Coun. Bob Mattice assured residents that their voices were heard. He stated, “We are certainly listening to what was said to us tonight, and we will take it back to council. Our goal is to work with the Chamber of Commerce as well to make this city as good as it is, so we’re here to work as partners and listen to everybody.” 

Council will address this matter for discussion in the upcoming meeting. 

By Chantel Downes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 29, 2024 at 17:42

This item reprinted with permission from   Lakeland This Week   Bonnyville, Alberta

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