Nanaimo malls shoulder biggest tax bill

NANAIMO – Woodgrove Centre tops list of commercial taxpayers in city.

Shopping centres shoulder Nanaimo’s biggest tax bills.

While Nanaimo Forest Products continued to slip down the ranks of the city’s highest taxpayers last year, shopping malls and big box stores filled out eight of the 10 spots on the 2014 tax roll, according to the city’s Annual Municipal Report.

Woodgrove Centre remained the single-largest taxpayer in the City of Nanaimo, paying $4.6 million and three per cent of the tax levy, while Nanaimo North Town came in second with $2.3 million. The number is up from the year previous when the shopping mall shot up the four spots in the rankings with $1.8 million in taxes – a move triggered by new commercial buildings like Canadian Tire.

First Capital Corporation, owner of Port Place Shopping Centre, saw its taxes rise from $1.3 million to $1.5 in 2014, which it attributes to the completion of the third phase of its high street development. It bumped Nanaimo Forest Products out of the third spot.

Brad Bailey, associate vice president of Colliers International Nanaimo, said the presence of shopping centres on the tax roll is a sign of a changing trend on Vancouver Island where retail is big. There’s market demand with attractive capitalization rates compared to major city centres like Toronto, and higher investment returns. Property owners are also investing in their products,  allowing them to get higher lease rates and greater value, he said.

Mayor Bill McKay said there’s no doubt retail is a big part of the tax base and points to a multi-year tax relief program for industry as the reason why commercial business dominates the tax roll. Council’s decision to reduce the industrial tax rate over time contributed to the success of large industrial facilities like Nanaimo Forest Products, but commercial and residential ratepayers had to make up the difference, McKay said.

The city is being called on by the Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce to cut businesses a break. The adjustment would recognize commercial ratepayers’ contribution to the community, help promote business migration and allow other B.C. communities time to play catch up on Nanaimo’s rates, said Kim Smythe, chamber chief executive officer.