Chelsea's NCC dispute heads to federal court
Making good on former mayor Caryl Green’s word, Chelsea’s new council voted unanimously to take the municipality’s property tax dispute with the National Capital Commission to federal court.
On Dec. 7, council voted unanimously to mandate DHC Avocats lawyer Paul Wayland to take the payment in lieu of tax – PILT – dispute to court.
“It’s a lot of money and we’re just a small community, so we need to be able to get what we’re owed,” Chelsea Mayor Pierre Guénard told the Low Down.
The NCC has already spent a lot fighting the dispute, a recent resident-submitted access to information request revealed. Between March 2020 and October 2021, the NCC spent $332,958.04 on legal fees for its Gatineau Park PILT dispute with Chelsea — that’s 23 per cent or over one-fifth of the disputed amount of $1.4 million since 2018.
Council’s move pleased Chelsea resident Marcel Chartrand.
“It’s an abuse of power and taxpayer money,” he said about the NCC’s actions. “It’s really sad, but the municipality has no choice.”
Chelsea says the NCC hasn’t been making full payments for Gatineau Park lands since 2018. The NCC says the park’s lands in Chelsea were priced too high – the same price as development lands instead of lands for conservation – during the MRC des Collines’ 2018 lands evaluation.
Chartrand’s group of Chelsea residents previously circulated a letter demanding that the NCC respect the PILT dispute advisory panel’s February ruling in favour of Chelsea, which recommended that the NCC pay Chelsea unpaid PILT fees.
Over the past four years the NCC has made $3,545,655 in PILT payments to Chelsea, NCC vice president of public, legal, and corporate affairs Nicolas Ruszkowski previously told the Low Down.
The NCC previously offered to pay the municipality some of the disputed amount, but Chelsea refused the offer because it had too many strings attached and could have cost the municipality even more in lost PILT over the coming years.
An NCC spokesperson previously told the Low Down that Chelsea won’t get a better outcome than its offer if this matter goes to court.
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 in October. 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.