Hamilton's Stelco Lands in a 2007 photo by Rick Cordeiro posted to Wikimedia

Hamilton’s residential-business tax imbalance may improve.

Ontario’s Assessment Review Board will reconsider its 2022 decision to confirm the decision of Municipal Property Assessment Corporation to value most of the Stelco lands at $100 per acre.

In a May 2022 decision, the ARB accepted MPAC’s testimony and ruled 411.6 of the 806.2 acres on the Stelco site in Hamilton’s industrial harbour, were “nonmarketable” due to contamination, and effectively worthless.

These lands were assessed at $100 per acre.

The decision changed the assessed value of the Stelco lands from $86,449,000 to $44,994,000, costing the City of Hamilton approximately $2-million per year in property tax revenue.

Two weeks after the ruling, Slate Asset Management purchased the lands for approximately $518-million, approximately $630,000 per acre.

MPAC’s expert witness testified there was no market for the Residual Lands because of concerns of environment contamination’ and ‘there was no willing buyer in the marketplace.’

Following the sale, the Hamilton City Council filed an application for reconsideration to the ARB.

The City argued the sale constitutes new evidence regarding the land’s value, that it was not available to the City during the hearing, and that had the ARB had the information before it, the outcome of the assessment hearing could be different.

In an appeal ruling posted Wednesday, Ontario ARB Vice-Chair Dirk VanderBent agreed with the City and ordered a new assessment review hearing.

“MPAC’s appraisal expert, in asserting that there was no market for the Residual Lands, is, in effect, saying that there would be no willing buyer for these lands,” VanderBent wrote.

“If the sale transaction closed, the Hearing Panel could have accepted that this evidence indicates there was a market for the Residual Lands.  As such, the Hearing Panel could have rejected MPAC’s appraisal expert’s opinion that the value of the Residual Lands is nominal.”

The City’s General Manager of Finance and Corporate Services Mike Zegarac says the City is pleased the ARB will reconsider.

“This was a positive in terms of the city’s position” that the lands are more valuable than $100 per acre, Zegarac stated.

He says staff will prepare for the new hearing and seek direction from Council, including if there is an opportunity for settlement between the City, Slate, and MPAC regarding a new assessed value for the lands.

The City argued the lands should be assessed at $125,000 per acre. Council will decide if the City will argue for a different amount in a new hearing.

Also, on Wednesday, Slate held an event on the Stelco lands to show its master plan for the site they are branding it Steelport.

There is an active Site Plan Application submitted to the City of Hamilton. The City’s planning staff are reviewing it.

A different panel of ARB Members will conduct the new hearing. No dates have yet been set.

City planning map of the Stelco Lands

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Published: October 12, 2023
Last edited: October 12, 2023
Author: Joey Coleman
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