WESTLOCK — Starting in the new year, Westlock County will begin offering tax exemptions on new non-residential development projects with an assessed value of $250,000 or more, as well as expansions or refurbishments of existing non-residential developments that add at least $50,000 to their assessment value.
During their Sept. 12 council meeting, Westlock County councillors passed second and third reading on Bylaw 49-2023 — Non-Residential Property Tax Incentive. First reading had been previously passed at the Aug. 15 council meeting.
For construction and renovation projects that add between $50,000 to $1 million in assessed value, non-residential ratepayers will receive an 80 per cent tax exemption in the first year, 65 per cent in the second year and 50 per cent in the third year.
Projects that add more than $1 million in assessed value are eligible for 100 per cent tax relief in the first year, 75 per cent tax relief in the second year and 50 per cent in the third year.
As noted in the bylaw, the exemption shall be granted for the tax year commencing 12 months after issuance of a development permit.
A property can only be eligible for one tax incentive exemption between Jan. 1, 2024 and Dec. 31, 2038.
County administration had first proposed a tax incentive for non-residential construction and development during the Aug. 15 committee of the whole meeting.
After spending some time cleaning up the wording of the bylaw, council passed first reading at the regular council meeting that immediately followed the Aug. 15 committee of the whole.
“By offering tax incentives, the goal is to attract, retain and promote investment in Westlock County,” said director of finance Peggy Hardinge at the Sept. 12 meeting.
Hardinge noted that the financial implications of the incentive would be measured over a period of time once new or improved development has been realized.
Noting he had received this question from a resident, deputy reeve Ray Marquette asked whether agricultural producers who purchased another quarter of land and added $50,000 to their operation’s assessed value would be eligible for the incentive.
Chief administrative officer Tony Kulbisky clarified that the incentive only applies to actual non-residential construction or improvements.
“We’re talking about actual buildings that we can actually assess,” he added.
Coun. Isaac Skuban said it was nice that the county was finally getting around to introducing a non-residential tax incentive, noting that it had been discussed since he started as a councillor.
“It’s really great that we are putting this forward. Not only are we addressing our … non-commercial tax rates that people have came and told us are high … but now we’re putting something in place for new people to come in and make it easier for them to develop in the county,” Skuban said.