The Composite Review Board has ruled in favour of the town in a complaint lodged by Andy Marshall, who believes the assessment is too low for the property of Spray Lake Sawmills on Griffin Rd.
Chaired by Edmund Bruton, the three-member board believed the town assessors provided a rationale and explainable reason for the $10.15 million assessment of the 57.35 acre property.
Not satisfied, Marshall and his lawyer Clint Docken might appeal the decision to the Court of the Queen's Bench of Alberta.
"We are certainly considering that," says Marhsall. "If we are going to do it, I think we'll be making a decision fairly soon," says Marshall.
The board summarized its decision in five points.
While calling concerns raised by the complainant both important and substantive, it said the lack of compelling sales, income or cost information to allow for a true comparison restrains the board from considering any change to the assessed value.
The board agreed with town assessors that a direct comparison cannot be made because the property is unique and cannot be compared to any other in Cochrane.
In the judgement, it states, "Factors such as the location, size, operation, degree of servicing and level of contamination of the subject property do not lend themselves easily to comparisons with other properties--let alone similar or typical properties."
It goes on to state it cannot extrapolate any meaningful values from the five properties presented by the complainant because they vastly differ in size, location, servicing, and contamination.
It did suggest the property used as a comparison in determining its sale value was too outdated.
"Although the respondent (town assessors) suggested that prices in the Town of Cochrane have been relatively flat for the past five years, a time-adjustment factor should be considered if the respondent continues to rely on the Towers Trail sale."
The board does believe contamination of the SLS property would factor into its value should the property be sold. In their decision, they state they are not in a position to determine of the $40,000 per acre reduction is appropriate, but it accepted the rationale behind the discount, calling it a real cost that would have to be borne for any future develpment.
In his complaint, Marshall raised concern over the tax exemption on machinery and equipment in the Town of Cochrane. The board said the matter is clearly outside of the board's jurisdiction and authority and took no position on the exemption.
The assessed value of the property's machinery and equipment is about $12 million.
Marshall says they were disappointed in the decision and believes they made a good case. He doesn't believe all the information is on the table for the town to fairly assess the property's value.
"One of the big examples is the factor that they would not release any information on the extent of the contamination on the site," says Marshall. "So, the board accepts the contamination was a legitimate issue for the town to impose a lower assessment, and yet they provided no evidence of the extent of the contamination."
He also believes the development of the Quarry on the former brownland of Domtar has increased its value and points to a town report prepared on the development of the Quarry.
"Every piece of land is unique, it's different to others, but that doesn't mean you can't ignore the development possibilities."
Marshall says he has received very little feedback on his appeal.
"There's been very little feedback, and I think it's partly attributable to the power and influence Spray Lake has in the town of Cochrane. People don't want to disturb the apple cart, and this is somewhat disturbing the apple cart."