• Hunter Cresswell

Chelseaites to NCC: Pay up

NCC studying Chelsea tax dispute decision

Time will tell if the National Capital Commission will keep true to the word of its former CEO.

Over 130 Chelsea residents have signed a letter calling on the National Capital Commission, which manages Gatineau Park, to resolve its ongoing property tax dispute with the municipality of Chelsea by paying up. Photo courtesy NCC

The Low Down received a January 2019 letter signed by then-NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson, who was replaced as CEO by Tobi Nussbaum about a month after sending that letter, addressed to Chelsea resident Brendan Denovan that states, “The NCC will respect the established process of the payment in lieu of taxes dispute advisory panel and will follow the conclusions that will ensue.”

An NCC spokesperson declined to comment on Kristmanson’s letter when asked about its validity and if that sentiment will be followed.

A group of over 130 people signed a letter telling the National Capital Commission to “pay its fair share” to Chelsea and resolve the ongoing tax dispute between the municipality and Crown corporation.

The letter signed by 135 Chelsea taxpayers calls on the NCC, which manages Gatineau Park lands, to settle the dispute with a payment of $589,427 plus interest to the municipality.

“The Gatineau Park puts enormous strain on our local infrastructure, from constant traffic jams in our rural enclave to heavy equipment destroying our roads. Repairs to the roads leading to the park – Kingsmere, Notch, and Meech – have cost Chelsea taxpayers millions in recent years … The costs of maintaining access to the park are increasingly being externalized to Chelsea taxpayers,” the letter states.

This citizen letter comes on the heels of news in late-February that the payment in lieu of taxes dispute advisory panel, which held hearings on the disagreement in November 2020, recommended the NCC pay Chelsea based on the current property evaluation plus interest.

When The Low Down asked NCC spokesperson Maryam El-Akhrass if the commission had made a decision and if not, when one will be made, she sent a statement that included, “We are currently reviewing and analyzing the content of the advice from the [dispute advisory panel], which is a recommendatory, not a judicial body, in order to determine next steps.

“The NCC is working within the requirements of the process established by the dispute advisory panel to resolve the dispute regarding the payments in lieu of taxes. The DAP's recommendations could have a significant impact in the short, medium, and long-term. This is why we are carefully reviewing the recommendations, with input from our partners in the federal government. We are committed to confirming the results of our analysis as well as our decision on the panel's recommendation as soon as possible,” NCC public, legal, and corporate affairs vice president Nicolas Ruszkowski said in a statement sent to The Low Down.

The NCC has told The Low Down the current property evaluation is too high.

The NCC argues that the MRC des Collines-issued property assessment rolls hiked the value of Gatineau Park properties by over 50 per cent between 2017 and 2019 because they were assessed at development property rates but are slated for conservation.

El-Akhrass declined to comment further when asked about similar property tax disputes between the NCC and the city of Gatineau and municipality of Pontiac over Gatineau Park properties.

Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green previously told The Low Down that the municipality will take this dispute to the next step, federal court, if the panel’s recommendation isn’t followed.

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