Vacant land tax passed for 2022
Tax takes effect when annexation order expires
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 11, 2012 06:00 am
It might be 10 years away, but city council voted Monday night to double the taxes owners of vacant land in the annexation area pay once the official order-in-council expires in 2022.
Mayor Nolan Crouse brought the motion forward, saying he had worked with Greg Dahlen, director of assessment and taxation services, to develop the number.
“What we want to be able to do is provide notice to landowners that there would be a taxation change once the annexation agreement expires,” Crouse said. “And the longer the notice you can provide, the easier it is for people to transition and plan.”
But Crouse admitted giving landowners a heads-up wasn’t the only reason for the motion.
“It’s targeting vacant lands. We want to see development and in order for there to be development, there needs to be a disincentive for landowners to not see it vacant,” Crouse said.
Under the terms of the 2007 annexation agreement that handed 1,337 acres of Sturgeon County land to St. Albert, landowners in the annexed lands must be taxed at the Sturgeon County rate until 2022. At that time, they would be taxed at the city’s rate. Under the new rate they will be taxed at double the normal mill rate.
The mayor has often mentioned that part of developing the annexed lands requires “willing landowners.” The 2007 annexation was framed as needed for residential expansion. The city wants to explore industrial development in some of the lands annexed.
“It’s to motivate landowners to develop and to find revenue,” Crouse told council Monday. “There are miles and miles of roads to plow … and we can’t do this prior to 2022 so this is setting in place a bylaw.”
Crouse used North Battleford, Sask. as an example, noting it taxes vacant land at seven times the normal mill rate. He and Dahlen completed a survey of municipalities in Alberta that also engage in the practice. The search revealed Spruce Grove, Lethbridge, Wood Buffalo, Edmonton, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Sturgeon County tax more for vacant land. However, in every case except Sturgeon County, those municipalities only have a separate tax for vacant multifamily residential.
Theoretically the vacant land tax would apply to all farmland that comes under St. Albert’s taxation bylaw as of 2022, but the effect would be minimal. What would be affected are any lands that have been subdivided or on which utilities have been installed with an aim towards development, Dahlen said.
“The intent of the mayor’s spirit is this would be something intended more for parcels that come out of the farm class and are waiting to be developed,” Dahlen said.