Saturday, September 30, 2023

Paying Dexter's Taxes

Fifty years ago I bought Joe Messenger's woodlot  in St. Croix Cove.  The Cove is a bit of paradise.  I loved to walk the rough trail through the property.  Birds and wildflowers were abundant and there was always an interesting fern in the deep shade along the brook.  I fished.  I planted American Chestnuts.

In 2004 a neighbor started a construction debris business two properties away.  It seemed innocent enough.  In 2014 he expanded into the Asbestos disposal  business and the dump became a destination for thousands of truckloads of cancer-causing Asbestos from renovations and teardowns in Halifax.

In a 2017 Environmental Assessment (EA), the dump was approved by Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change (NSECC) to expand and accept a total of 4,935 truckloads (40 cubic yards each) of asbestos over 14 years: As much as 8,107 tonnes/yr. I don't know what they charge here, but in Cape Breton the disposal fee is $109/ tonne, making the NSECC approval worth $883,718/yr.

I was staring glumly a
t the map of Nova Scotia Properties, where my 42 acres has an assessment of $9,500.  Then I noticed that the nearby 27 acre dump parcel has an assessment of $44,300.  The dump, Arlington Heights C&D is a blight on the landscape which is now owned by Dexter, one of the Municipal Group of Companies.  My taxes are $0 and the parcel in the dump's are $646.

My almost full time job is keeping track of the latest eco-insult from Dexter and non-response from NSECC.  Secrets, illegal clearing of wetlands, outright lies, insults.  What's next?

What's next is that they don't pay property tax.

The NS Assessment Act says:

Valuation 42 (1) All property shall be assessed at its market value, such value being the amount which in the opinion of the assessor would be paid if it were sold on a date prescribed by the Director in the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer, but in forming his opinion the assessor shall have regard to the assessment of other properties in the municipality so as to ensure that, subject to Section 45A, taxation falls in a uniform manner upon all residential and resource property and in a uniform manner upon all commercial property in the municipality.


Similarly, in Ontario their Act says:

“current value” means, in relation to land, the amount of money the fee simple, if unencumbered, would realize if sold at arm’s length by a willing seller to a willing buyer; 


For example, a business like the apartment building at 1333 South Park St. Halifax is assessed for $73 million and pays $910,000 property tax. The property tax rate is 1.2% of the assessed value. (varies by municipality)

Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) says it is is an award winning, independent, not-for-profit organization that is responsible for assessing all property in Nova Scotia.

Their methods include:

We typically use the Direct Comparison Approach for residential properties, condominiums and vacant land.

We analyze recent sales of similar properties to determine the value of your property and adjust for local market conditions.

We typically use the Income Approach for properties whose value is based on their ability to generate revenue, like apartments, office buildings, shopping malls, hotels, and manufactured home parks.

We collect and analyze detailed income and expense information for your property and compare it to similar properties to determine how much income your property could be expected to generate. Then we analyze the relationship between income and sales prices to calculate the capitalization rate.

I had a nice talk with an assessor who tried to convince me that the Direct Comparison approach was fair (total acreage 149, tax $2718).

We talked about the Income Approach to valuation.  A more apt description of the dump enterprise can hardly be imagined.  Annapolis County is missing significant revenue (I calculate $13,189/yr on this one EA approval) through misvaluing my neighbor's property.  Multiply that province-wide and there is an opportunity to distribute taxes more equitably. 

There are 54 EAs available on the web.   49  'Approved with conditions', one withdrawn, four still under review.  11 of the 54 involve Dexter or related companies.  I've been working my way through them.  At the moment I'm at 21.  The value of the EA approvals for those is $909,514,920/yr.  A 1.5% tax is $14,423,074.  The current tax is $138,390 making a loss of $14,284,684 to be made up by ratepayers! 

The Bear Head Energy Green Hydrogen and Ammonia Production Project is so outrageous ($ 300 million/yr) it deserves a much more careful look.

The details of my calculations may be off - I estimated 40% efficiency at the wind farms, tried to use conservative estimates otherwise, and assume other taxes are correct.  I acknowledge data fatigue  - but the stakes are high and Municipalities are strapped for cash.  Someone needs to pay attention.

There is an urgent question of why the market value of the rights associated with Environmental Assessment Approval (Minister's Approval) issued under the Environment Act are not reflected in the current value of property.  Since millions of dollars are in play, ordinary taxpayers are entitled to a resolution of the question.


This matter was argued before the Assessment Review Board in Ontario which decided that environmental approvals must be considered as a component of the land value in determining the assessment of the property.   The decision is here.

Meanwhile, I appealed the assessment of the dump property.  Apparently there is a sixty day time limit to appeal beginning the day assessments are mailed, so my appeal was denied.  The appeal process is geared to those who think their own property is overvalued.  It assumes you know the date the assessment was received and the account number.  The form says 'I am appealing my property assessment.....'

How am I supposed to know when Dexter got a piece of paper?  Maybe a Russian hacker knows the account number, but not me.

You can make a case for a short time limit on appeals - certainty is a good thing.  But when methodology is in question it doesn't help to cover your ears and pretend nothing's up.  What, me worry?

But what really frosts me is a quasi government agency favoring Big Business over regular taxpayers.


The fee for registering an EA is $17,250.40 - presumably some public projects are exempt.

Just by way of background, here's a preliminary map of approximate locations:

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