If Cochrane taxpayers had come to this public hearing, held by the Composite Assessment Review Board (CARB), on Aug. 10 in the Council Chamber, they would have witnessed a strange scene as Town of Cochrane staff defended their unusually low assessment of the Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) large 57 acre property just south of The Quarry commercial area.
I witnessed a strange scene on Aug. 10 in the Council Chamber at a public hearing held by the Composite Assessment Review Board (CARB) - Town of Cochrane staff defending an unusually low assessment of the Spray Lake Sawmills (SLS) large 57 ac property just south of The Quarry commercial area.
Former town councilor Andy Marshall, assisted by lawyer Clint Docken, had lodged a complaint challenging the low assessment. The Town fought vigorously to keep property tax revenue from SLS low, leaving residents to carry the tax burden.
The two main reasons brought forward by Town staff why the assessment of SLS land is much lower than similar industrial properties in Cochrane were as follows: 1) the Town assessment considers the SLS land to be “unserviced land”, i.e. not connected to municipal services like water, sewer, electricity, etc. although SLS fronts Griffin Road and gets the full range of services to support its operations, and 2) the SLS site is contaminated!
Any environmental contamination is of very serious concern to Cochrane residents, but Town staff produced no evidence to prove that the SLS land is contaminated and justifies a lower assessment. The site is not listed in the Province’s official registry of contaminated sites. By the end of the hearing the Town seemed to be unable to explain and defend their unusually low assessment of SLS land. Cochrane residents might wonder whose side the Town administration is on: the thousands of residential taxpayers or one large, privately owned industrial enterprise?
On September 3 the CARB denied the complaint. They acknowledged that the concerns “are important and substantive”, and that they couldn’t determine “whether or not the 540,000 / acre reduction is appropriate given the limited information presented”. Cochrane taxpayers are left with more questions than answers, especially about a significant and costly groundwater contamination.
I appreciate Andy and Clint’s extensive work on behalf of Cochrane taxpayers to raise these issues and encourage further consideration by Town Council and the public.