In a deputation Monday at city hall, Pastor Al Stone of Bible Baptist Church urged council to deem property it has owned since 2007 at 320 Highbury Ave. as tax exempt.
Members sympathized with the request and a bylaw to waive the municipal property tax at the building where printed material is assembled for mailout could be in front of council as early as Monday.
Council was not unanimous in its decision and this corner approached Coun. Joan Rymal to ascertain her concerns.
Rymal advised she had been in contact with Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) which is responsible for property assessment across the province.
“They said they also had concerns about the property,” Rymal explained, “but they had given the property the concession of being taxed at a residential rate as opposed to commercial so that they already have an enhanced tax rate.
“In their expert opinion, they didn’t feel that it was a place of worship and they felt it was taxed appropriately.”
Rymal also had a concern about the Toronto hearing in December for a private bill put forth by MPP Jeff Yurek seeking tax relief for Bible Baptist Church.
“I had concerns (former alderman) Tom Johnston was there and he appeared in the bill to be representing the city . . . and Mr. Johnston wasn’t a councillor at that time. And in the (Hansard) transcript, neither Tom nor Jeff Yurek clarified that point to the committee.”
Good point, so where does Johnston fit into the picture.
“I’ve been involved for seven years,” Johnston told City Scope on Friday. “When they first decided to go out there (on Highbury Ave.) it was industrial land and council of the day switched it to allow them to do it. Council voted 8-0.
“MPAC comes in and taxes them as if they were a manufacturing company and that’s when they called me . . . and so we looked into it but we couldn’t change it as council . . . so we had to go through Queen’s Park. It was a seven-year process.
“We were there in December,” Johnston continued, “for the second and third reading and there were six Liberals, a Liberal chairman, an NDP member and a PC rep. They were unanimous that they shouldn’t be taxed. And now it comes back to council to pass a bylaw.”
A decision proving unpopular with several posters on the T-J website but there is no denying due process was followed and the go-ahead to allow council to consider a bylaw was the result of a decision from the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
PAINFUL TO WATCH
Watching Coun. Mark Burgess strive to rationalize his renovation motion on Monday was nothing short of painful. Actually it was embarrassing.
Specifically, he sought a Class B estimate for renovating the Colin McGregor Justice Building that keeps within the guidelines of Report ES47-14 (dealing with the extent of renovations that can be undertaken without applying for a building permit) and does not include any expansion or addition to the existing building.
His fact sheet for council was short on fact and long on speculation. Numbers and percentages were pulled from thin air without a shred of technical justification.
His claim a million dollars could be chopped from any previous renovation estimate would never stand up to even the most basic scrutiny.
And the assertion by Burgess that somehow the “bells and whistles” could be stripped from any renovation undertaking at the Colin McGregor Justice Building is totally unfounded.
We encourage Burgess to contact Chief Darryl Pinnell and arrange for a tour of the facility . . . trust me, he will be more than accommodating.
Only then, will you know of what you speak.
Sean Dyke over at St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation is readying to launch the #stthomasproud campaign in partnership with Railway City Tourism and small businesses to promote what’s good about the city.
The story profiling the campaign appeared in Friday’s Times-Journal and online at the T-J website and Facebook page.
True to form and within minutes, the anonymous rabble out there were slamming the campaign, the city, the police station, the mayor and council, the downtown, ad nauseam.
This corner could editorialize at length on the lurkers who live to turn positives into negatives faster than the Leafs can clutch defeat from the jaws of victory.
However Diane, posting on our Facebook page, hit a home run with this observation.
“Unbelievable! These comments are reason enough why this program needs to happen. I have never, ever lived anywhere with such a bunch of negative, people-bashing complainers! A small but vocal minority of residents think it is their God-given right to call the mayor horrible, the councillors ignorant and city staff incompetent. But we had an election — this is who was elected!
“By the majority of voters who cared enough to show up. Some would have us believe that somehow democracy failed — if that’s your opinion, challenge the process through legal channels. Just please stop making life miserable for everyone else by spouting your negativity. Try to be part of the solution . . .”
Good on you, Diane and many thanks for allowing us to quote you.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“By the content of the majority of these comments (posted on the T-J website and Facebook page) it seems that if Jesus were to arrive in St Thomas and walk across Lake Margaret that there would be a mob at the side of the lake giving him hell because he got his feet wet.”
Reader Jim Stewart posting on the T-J website in reaction to numerous negative comments on the soon-to-be-launched #stthomasproud campaign.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.