Dispute over Harmac's 2009 property assessment wraps up
Both sides have filed their final submissions

Nanaimo Daily News
Published: Friday, February 19, 2010

Both sides in the Harmac pulp mill's dispute over its 2009 property assessment filed their final submissions to a government appeal board by last Friday's deadline.

Levi Sampson, president of Nanaimo Forest Products, which owns Harmac, said the mill's final submission was filed a number of weeks ago and company officials are now "waiting for the process to unfold."

Bill Dawson, an assessor with the B.C. Assessment Authority's Nanaimo office, said the BCAA filed its final submission and he expects the appeal board will deliver a final decision by the end of March.

The worker-led NFP began an appeal process with the B.C. Assessment Authority last April over the authority's $17-million assessment of the 250 acres where the mill is located.

Harmac owns about 500 hectares of industrial land at Duke Point that it paid $13.2 million for in 2008.

NFP paid the city $100,000 in required taxes for 2009 on the rest of its property, but the company is arguing the assessment of the mill property is far too high and has refused to pay the outstanding $2.8 million tax bill until the appeal board rules on the dispute.

The City of Nanaimo levied more than $200,000 in penalties last summer against the mill for missing two tax deadlines, and the city began charging 5% daily interest on the tax bill on Jan. 1.

If Harmac's appeal bid is successful, the city stands to lose about $550,000 in annual revenue.

Sampson said Harmac was quick to file its final submission because the NFP sees the facts as "pretty clear cut" and expects to win the appeal, but the company will abide by whatever decision is made.

Dawson said just four property assessment appeals out of 66 filed in the central Island region for 2009 have yet to be resolved, including Harmac's.

"This is a complicated appeal with a lot of issues that involve big financial numbers so it's not surprising it's one of the last the appeal board will rule on," he said.

Dawson said the BCAA followed the letter of the legislation to ascertain Harmac's assessment and it is comparable to similar operations in the province.

High industrial taxes in Nanaimo have long been a major concern for the city's pulp and sawmills and other heavy industries. The city began responding last year with a four-year plan to eventually drop its industrial tax rate by more than 50%.

The move saw an $800,000 tax cut for Harmac in 2009 compared to 2008.