Residents’ request to abandon the city rejected

Council voted to deny removing the McIvor Lake Road properties from the city boundary

A McIvor Lake Road resident says he’s not surprised council denied a request to remove his and seven other properties out of the city boundary.

Aref Tabarsi, who lives by the lake, said the city can’t afford to lose him.

“I can tell you that I’m not surprised with that decision because we pay a significant amount of tax to them (the city),” Tabarsi said. “Why would they want us excluded? It was totally expected. I sort of already knew that would be the answer.”

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said the eight properties combined bring in $33,000 in taxation revenues but Tabarsi said it’s more than that.

Tabarsi said that according to last year’s property tax, Neufeld’s “claim of $33,000 is far (more than 100 per cent) from the truth. Suffice to say that my property tax alone is almost $14,000.”

Council voted to deny removing the McIvor Lake Road properties from the city boundary Tuesday night, following advice from Neufeld. He said the city would be less likely to improve McIvor Lake Road, the catalyst for the residents’ complaints, if there were no city residents in the area.

The three-kilometre long road that circles McIvor Lake is paved for the first 2.5 kilometres off Highway 28 and the last 500 metres is gravel. Tabarsi and his neighbours want out of the city because they say the city is collecting a significant amount of tax from them, but not providing a basic, drivable road. The residents are instead lobbying to become a part of the Strathcona Regional District, where the mill rate is lower.

Tabarsi said McIvor Lake residents are paying the city tax mill rate as if the owner has the choice to use sewer and garbage services (which the residents do not receive and are not charged for) and not take advantage of it.

Neufeld, in a report to council, said the challenge is that the city cannot directly control the bottom line of a person’s property tax, no matter what services they do or do not receive.

“The concern about property tax levels is a common criticism of the property taxation model,” Neufeld said. “The challenge is that property taxes levied are based solely on the value of the property with no correlation to the level of service provided or to the property owner’s ability to pay.”

Coun. Claire Moglove thanked Neufeld for a “comprehensive” report and for drawing attention to a serious issue.

“It not only addresses the specific issue of the residents on McIvor Lake Road, and I don’t dispute that’s an issue, but it highlights what I think is probably the most important issue facing local governments and that is finances and how municipalities or local governments are able to raise funds,” Moglove said. “We are so limited in our tools, i.e. property taxation and user fees, that it has become an issue where it is completely unfair, unequitable, unsustainable and needs significant revision.”

Coun. Andy Adams tried to come up with a compromise for the residents, and put a motion forward to pave the road, with the benefiting residents paying 70 per cent of the cost and the city contributing 30 per cent. Years ago the council of the day rejected an agreement that would have seen the city pay 75 per cent of the costs and the city pay 25 per cent. The full cost is estimated to be between $70,000 to $80,000.

“There’s a financial benefit and an operational benefit to the city to have this road paved,” Adams said. “‘A’, we’re not fielding complaints and ‘B’, we’re not having to go out there and grade the road and do the regular maintenance that’s required on a regular basis to keep it as a public road.”

But Moglove thought it was too premature to commit before not having the definite costs in front of her, while Coun. Ron Kerr didn’t want to negotiate in council chambers.

Coun. Mary Storry said she would like the residents to come to council, not the other way around.

“I really believe a local improvement project should be brought to council by that local area,” Storry said. “If they would like us to consider a local service area then they should require it of council.”

Adams’ motion to split the cost of paving the road was defeated, with councillors Kerr, Moglove, Storry and Ryan Mennie opposed.

Tabarsi, who was notified by the Mirror of council’s decision, said it was too soon to know what the next steps are.

He said he would talk with his neighbours and they may consider peacefully negotiating with the city or take the case to Supreme Court.