Chelsea gives NCC ultimatum
Council threatens to take NCC to federal court
Chelsea council wants the National Capital Commission to make up its mind.
During the Oct. 5 council meeting, council unanimously approved a resolution mandating Chelsea’s lawyer to send the NCC a formal notice, which gives the crown corporation 10 days to make a decision in the ongoing payment in lieu of tax dispute. The resolution also states that Chelsea will take this dispute to federal court.
“For a municipality of 7,500 residents, the financial burden is enormous and it is the residents who must assume this loss of revenue,” Mayor Caryl Green said during the virtual council meeting, which was attended by almost 30 people.
According to the municipality, the NCC owes the municipality $1.4 million in payments in lieu of taxes – or PILT – for Gatineau Park properties within the municipal borders since 2018. PILT is money owed instead of taxes that would be due if the property was privately owned.
The non-payment has cost Chelsea residents an average of $166 a year each on their recent tax bills.
When reached for comment on Oct. 8, NCC vice president of public, legal, and corporate affairs Nicolas Ruszkowski said, “it’s not as if we have not been paying.”
He said that over the past four years the NCC has made $3,545,655 in PILT payments to Chelsea and that, “we’re prepared to pay another $3 million (in PILT and other payments).”
He said that would equal how much the PILT Dispute Advisory Panel recommended the NCC pay to Chelsea in February this year.
“We were surprised and disappointed with the passage of that resolution,” Ruszkowski said about Chelsea’s recent decisions to send the NCC a formal notice and possibly take it to court.
He said that an offer was made early in the negotiation process, but Chelsea hasn’t accepted.
Green said that the NCC made an offer to Chelsea in June this year that doesn’t respect the PILT panel’s recommendation, which includes payment not in the form of PILT and an agreement to apply different land value assessment principles. The PILT panel’s recommendation is not legally binding.
She said that if that offer was accepted it would mean a loss of around $800,000 in PILT payments from the NCC every year starting in 2024.
Ruszkowski said that the NCC did offer to negotiate the methodology of future property assessment roles.
“From the beginning, we have taken the position that we would much prefer a negotiated outcome,” he said.
Gatineau City Council, also in the midst of a similar PILT dispute with the NCC over Gatineau Park lands, passed the same resolution as Chelsea last week. Municipality of Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie previously told The Low Down that the NCC didn’t make the full PILT payments in 2020, which totals about $138,000.
The dispute with Chelsea, which Ruszkowski framed as more of a “disagreement”, stems from an MRC des Collines land evaluation in 2018 that raised property values across Gatineau Park.
“We don’t believe it is right for conservation park lands to be assessed [at commercial or real estate values],” Ruszkowski said.
“The municipality of Chelsea is prepared to bring this matter before the federal court to ensure that the NCC pays its fair share,” Green said.