A growing group of Shawnigan Lake homeowners is demanding a reduction in their property assessments due to concerns raised about contaminated soil dumping in their watershed.
Vicki Tyner and her husband, Bill Clark, are spearheading the push. They are not neophytes at tackling BC Assessment. Last year they were able to get 20 per cent reductions in assessments for eight properties because there was a licensed grow-op in their neighbourhood.
Now, in 2016, they are taking on a new problem.
The Citizen spoke to Tyner and Clark on Sunday, Jan. 17 and they outlined their view of the situation.
“We feel that the value of the properties in Shawnigan Lake have gone down just because of what’s going on with the [contaminated soil] dump,” Tyner said.
“A real estate agent told me yesterday that of all the house sales with a realtor from July to December in the Shawnigan Lake area, 27 per cent of those sales were for below the assessed value.”
Tyner has talked to several realtors that are seeing what’s happening in the market on a daily basis and the soil dumping is a prime subject for conversation.
“Almost 100 per cent of the time now, when people are looking at houses in this area, the realtors are asked about the water issues and what’s happening there. And, because it’s in court right now, there’s not a lot to say.”
Although last year’s appeal was successful, Tyner and Clark are starting from scratch in 2016 with BC Assessment.
“We’re going into this not with those coloured glasses on but it’s about awareness as well. So far I have 125 names of those who have expressed interest in appealing,” Tyner said.
“We feel that when BC Assessment get even 100 more households appealing than they would normally get that’s a bit of a nuisance for them. We are also going to ask for a regional re-assessment for Shawnigan/Area B,” Tyner said.
The court case involving the dumping of contaminated soil at Stebbings Road in the Shawnigan watershed should conclude this week.
“We’re hoping beyond hope that this permit is going to be pulled. And then there is still the matter of making them get the contaminated soil out.”
After concerns were raised last November about a breach in the containment area, Tyner saw Shawnigan residents rally.
“Everyone started to worry that eight months into this 50 year contract we’ve already had a breach. We needed to ramp it up. In five weeks it was phenomenal. We’ve got very organized groups. We have 125 names already. I regularly email everybody to keep them up on what’s been happening. And now most of us have our assessments.”
Tyner and Clark and their neighbours have two mountains to climb now.
“They’ve put ours back up to where it was before the grow-op again, kind of like they think something’s changed. The grow-op is still there. I’m not against having marijuana legalized. I’m a nurse, I see the benefits of it. But not in family neighbourhoods,” she said.
BC Assessment has the option of nipping the appeal in the bud or letting the process play out.
“We’re hoping that they will listen to our case and not send us a letter saying: ‘No, your appeal has been denied,’” Tyner said.
If approved, the group will attend the hearing en masse.
“They told us last year that it was the first time ever that they’ve had to deal with a neighbourhood over a neighbourhood issue. And this is a much bigger neighbourhood issue: 125 families compared to eight.”
Clark pointed out that property owners have to be ready to act.
“People have to each appeal their own assessment individually,” he said.
Tyner said that she was also considering getting in touch with regional director Sonia Furstenau to see if she could ask for a region-wide reconsideration.
That has happened before. In the early 1980s, following the economic downturn that hit the Cowichan Lake district in the wake of Western Forest Industries’ Honeymoon Bay sawmill and Gordon Bay logging operations shutting down in the fall of 1981, the Mayor of Lake Cowichan led a delegation to BC Assessment, in a successful call for a widespread reduction in property assessments.
“We will look into that. People have been asking us if we would get involved in a regional re-assessment,” Tyner said.
Clark said there are concerns about the contaminated soil dump site should there be a moderate to significant earthquake, or even heavy rains.
“So that’s why we said these assessments are crazy. We probably couldn’t get now what we paid for our house and we’ve been here for 10 years; it’s our retirement package. It’s the biggest investment you make in your life,” Tyner said.
If you are interested in getting involved with this effort, contact Vicki Tyner or Bill Clark at email@example.com to get onto the mailing list for further action.