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More property owners appeal assessments

Disappointed with a local review panel’s decision to drop his property assessment by "only" $43,000, Stan Milacek is now taking his case before the provincial appeal board.

Disappointed with a local review panel’s decision to drop his property assessment by "only" $43,000, Stan Milacek is now taking his case before the provincial appeal board.

"I didn’t expect anything more from you here," he said to the three-member Property Assessment Review Panel who granted him the reduction at a review on Tuesday morning.

Based on evidence presented by both sides, the board decided to lower the assessment of Milacek’s Painted Cliff property from $1,511,000 to $1,468,000.

Milacek’s ski in/ski out property on the Blackcomb Benchlands has jumped almost 70 per cent in 12 months, from an assessed value of $890,000 last year to over $1.5 million this year. The review panel’s decision represents a five per cent reduction in property value.

"This is the type of unit that’s in very high demand," said Sandy MacLean, a property appraiser with B.C. Assessment who was defending the Painted Cliff assessment.

"People really want the ski in/ski out and they’ll pay for it."

But the 10-year Whistler property owner said the huge increase in his property is unrealistic, particularly when the Blackcomb Benchlands as a whole increased by 35 per cent in value, half the amount of his property.

Presenting his case, Milacek said the assessor put a lot of weight on a sale of $1.4 million in the same complex at the end of July 2002.

He argued that property should not be used as a comparable because the valuation date for 2003 property assessments is July 1, 2002. The $1.4 million sale happened after that date.

But property assessor MacLean argued that assessors look at sales before and after the July 1 st date to get a better evaluation. He said this is an accepted practice.

"Just because it’s beyond the valuation date doesn’t mean we can’t look at it as evidence," said MacLean.

Next Milacek questioned using the sales in the nearby Snowy Creek complex as an indication of the property values at Painted Cliff. Those units are three bedrooms and higher, whereas Painted Cliff does not have any units over three bedrooms.

A Snowy Creek unit sold for $1,975,000 in 2002 and again Milacek argued the sale took place in October and should not be counted.

MacLean admitted the sale closed in October but it was negotiated in July.

"We use whenever possible the date it was negotiated," he said.

"I would stand that that sale is a July sale."

Milacek’s Whistler home is a three-bedroom end unit right on the edge of the slopes. Its assessed value increased by 70 per cent, while every other unit in Painted Cliff increased by 65 per cent.

"I cannot believe how the assessor could arrive at those magic numbers," said Milacek.

MacLean defended the additional five per cent saying: "It wasn’t that we were trying to pick on him. But last year he came before this panel and was given a five per cent reduction."

That five per cent reduction was not carried forward this year, he added.

Milacek reminded the board that although his property is very well located, it's not accessible by car, like some of the others. And the snow machines and grooming machine generate a lot of noise at night.

"I would want you to sleep in a bedroom next to the ski slope," he said.

The board made the decision to reduce the property by five per cent based on the decision from the previous year.

"We believe your unit is superior in the complex," said the review panel’s chairman, Paul Lalli.

"But we wanted to bring it in line with the averages in the complex. We want to ensure a decision that was made last year was still upheld."

Milacek said he will appeal this decision to the provincial Property Assessment Appeal Board.

He maintains that the B.C. Assessment has over assessed his property and others at the Painted Cliff complex.

His evidence was based on three sales at Painted Cliff from July1, 2001 to July 1, 2002. Each of those homes sold for between $500,000 and $600,000 in that time period. Those three homes were assessed in 2002 from $406,000 to $582,000.

This year those homes have been assessed at over $900,000, a 66 per cent increase.

Milacek said B.C. Assessment is supposed to calculate the market value of each strata unit by comparing sales on similar units in the complex.

"The actual increase according to sales was eight per cent," he said.

"Our complex is over assessed by $15-million."

This year’s assessment roll, the total value of all properties in Whistler, increased by $2.2 billion, jumping from $6.5 billion to $8.7 billion. Compared to last year, which only saw a total increase of $500 million, this year has seen a large jump in property assessments.

This jump is reflected in the number of appeals heard by the review panel.

"There’s a lot of appeals, primarily due to the large increases," said Lalli.

The tax rates however, are not usually calculated until after the final assessment roll, which comes out in March. This roll takes into account any adjustments in values from the appeal process.

Local builder Paul O’Mara, who is calling for property owners to take action on school taxes, which are assessed on property values, also appealed his property assessment about two weeks ago.

"I recommend every land owner appeal their assessment and clog the system," he said.

"I think they’re ripping us off."