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MUNICIPAL BOARDS AND TRIBUNALS - Practice and procedure

Wednesday, June 10, 2020 @ 6:32 AM  


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Appeal by the City of Saskatoon from a decision of the Assessment Appeals Committee of the Saskatchewan Municipal Board. The respondents were amongst the owners of 11 commercial retail properties situated in the City’s downtown core, but outside of the prime retail area. The respondents took issue with the Assessor’s use of a single base rental coefficient in its rent model as sufficiently representative of the retail properties in the City’s downtown core. The Board expressed some reservations with that approach, but ultimately deferred to the Assessor’s judgment and discretion in dismissing the respondents’ initial appeal. On further appeal, the Committee accepted the respondents’ position and remitted the 2017 assessment of the subject properties to the Assessor with instructions to recalculate the assessments after including gross and semi-gross rents to determine if the inclusion of those properties indicated a need for restratification in the downtown core. The City appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The Committee erred in law by using the incorrect standard of proof in reaching a decision in the absence of evidence and erred in overturning the Assessor’s discretion in developing the model. The central issue in the appeal to the Board concerned the application of a single base coefficient despite variations in the location, condition and configuration of the properties in the downtown area. The Board found the evidence insufficient to determine whether the Assessor erred and, as a result, properly deferred to the Assessor’s judgment and discretion. Before the Committee, however, the respondents focused on the narrow issue of assessor discretion. The Committee erred by invoking its remedial powers without first addressing whether, or how, the Board erred in assessing the respondents’ evidence related to the exclusion of gross rents for comparability purposes, and in independently determining whether the rent model was flawed. The error was compounded by the Committee addressing the substantive issue despite the acknowledged inadequacy of the evidence. The Committee’s decision was set aside, and the Board’s decision was reinstated.

Saskatoon (City) v. Victory Majors Investments Corp., [2020] S.J. No. 172, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, R.K. Ottenbreit, L.M. Schwann and J.D. Kalmakoff JJ.A., May 6, 2020. Digest No. TLD-June82020006