To help boost its non-residential tax base, the City of Chestermere is exploring selling its lakefront city hall property, located at 105 Marina Road.
According to Mayor Marshall Chalmers, 95 per cent of the City’s current tax base is residential, while just five per cent comes from commercial or industrial properties – much lower than most municipalities in Alberta.
“The money required to run the City and provide the services is coming from residences, and that’s just the way the community grew,” he said. “Now, we’re trying to look at every opportunity to get some non-residential tax rate going.”
At the Oct. 8 committee of the whole meeting, council directed administration to develop an expression of interest for the building’s sale to a private-sector tenant.
“This building sits on lakefront commercial property, and those types of properties are limited,” Chalmers said. “They can be a good source of tax revenue, so we’re testing the waters to see what comes of it.”
At the meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Bernie Morton told council the commercialization of the building would generate an estimated $110,000 to $120,000 a year in property taxation.
“That over the lifespan of the building is a significant amount of money, which could help with our City taxes,” he said.
According to Chalmers, the building, which is located on a parcel of land adjacent to the north end of the lake, has acted as city hall since 2004.
He emphasized the property is not currently for sale, but putting forward an expression of interest would allow the municipality to “gauge the market without making any decisions.”
“Once we allow a period of time for that – and if we see there is, in fact, interest – there is more work that needs to be done to determine next steps, including an agreement for sale,” he said.
Chalmers declined to reveal how much the City considers the property to be worth.
“We do have an evaluation in mind,” he said. “We’re sitting on 1.94 acres of waterfront property, so it’s not unrealistic to see it’s a valuable property.”
Along with city hall, the building also houses the Chestermere Public Library. The library’s acting director, Cathy Burness, said the City has been communicative throughout the process.
“We understand that the City is just calling for expressions of interest at this point and administration has been very forthcoming with updates, so we are not left in the dark,” she said in a statement. “We have been assured that we will not be displaced if, in fact, the building is sold.”
As to where city hall and the library would relocate, Chalmers said there are a few possible locations. He added the City wants to eventually build a multi-purpose recreation complex, along with new developments on the west end of Chestermere, and one option is a civic centre at that facility.
“There are lots of challenges and we’re just trying to figure out our best next steps,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we were able to sell it, it would certainly put some non-residential tax base into our hands.”
Chalmers said the decision to sell the property would ultimately come down to council.