By Catherine McKenney & Shawn Menard
Thursday, May 20th, 2021
Did you know that if you decide to build a new deck onto your home this summer, or to finish your basement this fall, the assessed MPAC value of your home may increase, and you will pay extra in property taxes? You might argue that it’s unfair since you employed carpenters and other tradespeople to complete the work, and therefore created jobs, but that is how property assessment and property taxes work. Your property tax bill will rise accordingly.
Unless, of course, you own a certain Porsche dealership in Ottawa.
Now, to be fair, Mrak Holdings applied for a ‘grant’ (which is realized as a tax break over 10 years) from the established Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan (CIP) that was supported by Council in June 2019. A program that we supported. What we do not support, however, is the Finance Committee’s approval of this particular grant application for a $2.9 million property tax break.
The CIP is meant to support the redevelopment of Montreal Road to “encourage urban renewal, promote the development of cultural assets, support businesses including not-for-profits and cultural organizations, contribute to making the city an attractive and business-friendly environment and encourage investment and expansion.”
Giving a Porsche dealership a tax break was not what this plan was meant to accomplish.
To begin with, car dealerships do not belong on traditional mainstreets. This one has been grandfathered so is permitted to be there, but it is not a use that should be encouraged.
It also goes without saying that $2.9m could be directed to much better uses in a city that is starving for investments in housing, in our small businesses, in stronger social supports, recreation centres, youth programming, more greenspace, affordable transit. The list goes on. And yes, you could argue that withholding the grant means Mrak Holdings may not renew this property, a highly unlikely prospect, but that logic should then apply to all businesses and property owners who may want to expand.
The report that we will vote on at Council on Wednesday argues that a new 2-storey dealership will be a gateway feature that will accommodate plantings, bench seating and product display. The owners made the suggestion that it will act as a community hub. $2.9m is a lot of money for the City to forgo for a bench, plants and a possible private community room.
Montreal Road is one of the most important streets in Ottawa. It runs through the heart of a historically diverse, strong-knit community that has long been economically disadvantaged. The Community Improvement Plan is an opportunity to take a considered approach that would show how the community will benefit directly. This grant will not accomplish that. Furthermore, it erodes public confidence in the city precisely at the time when we need trust and a vision for a better more sustainable city coming out of the pandemic.
The trickle-down economic thinking that supports a $2.9m tax grant to a Porsche dealership will not advantage the residents of this neighbourhood or the city at large, nor will it spur the economic activity that small businesses need today. We are certain that most residents would agree. Council should listen.
We will vote against the recommendation to provide a tax grant to the Porsche dealership. We invite you to add your name in support of our position at catherinemckenney.ca/rejectporsche.