Property taxes floor Burnaby tilemaker after soaring assessment

“Just opening the [BC Assessment] envelope was enough to stop me from sleeping for two days,” says manufacturer and business owner

On January 8, less than a week after receiving the assessment notice for his 41-year-old tile manufacturing business in Burnaby, Kim Hauner called his 100 staff members together to break the bad news.

“Our property tax bill this year will be $496,000,” Hauner told them. “I don’t have the money I need to have to stay here past July [when the property tax bill is due].”

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The assessment for Interstyle Glass and Ceramics’ four-acre industrial site, which is located on Brighton Avenue near the Production Way-University SkyTrain station in Burnaby, soared this year to $41,620,000, up from $11,830,000 just a year earlier.

“Just opening the [assessment] envelope was enough to stop me from sleeping for two days,” he said.

Hauner told his staff that he is fighting the assessment. He has gone to the media, contacted his local MLA, the NDP’s Katrina Chen, talked to Burnaby City Hall and called the BC Assessment Authority.

He received zero encouragement from the province, the city or assessment authorities, but discovered the reason for the soaring value was due to the sale of a neighbouring 20-acre industrial parcel, the Saputo Inc. dairy plant, that was sold last year for $218 million under a potential redevelopment plan. That deal, to an undisclosed buyer, closes in the first quarter of 2019.

BC Assessment values property based on its highest possible use, not on the current configuration.

“It is all speculation,” Hauner said. “There has been no change in the status of our property. There is no new zoning or redevelopment plans, confirmed by the planning department in Burnaby.”

An annual property tax bill of nearly half-a-million dollars “puts us out of business, as we don't have the extra money budgeted for this year, which is compounded by the MSP [Medical Service Plan premium increase for employers] and minimum wage increases that also come into effect at this time,” Hauner said.

The provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs had not provided a statement as of press time. NDP MLA Katrina Chen was “out of town and cannot be reached for comment,” according to her office.

Hauner doubts that he would find a buyer willing to pay the assessed value for his property. BC Assessment has valued Interstyle’s building at just $65,000. To stay in the tile business, he said, would mean relocating out of Metro Vancouver. “I make tiles, I’m not in the real estate business,” he said.

Hauner, 63, doubts anyone would pay the current assessed value, but he conceded such a price could force an exit strategy for him and his investment partners.

“Honestly,” he said, “if someone said, ‘Here is $41 million; walk,’ why wouldn’t I do that?”

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