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A Montreal borough sticks its hands in renovators' pockets for five-figure "park fees"

The CBC reports that Plateau-Mont Royal, a Montreal borough, is asking renovating homeowners to pay a fee worth 10 per cent of the value of their land if they renovate more than 35 per cent of their properties.


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March 5, 2014 by Steve Payne

If you’re tired of hearing politicians talk about “revenue tools” (i.e., extra taxes from your hard labour), how would you like to be a renovator working in the Montreal borough of Plateau Mont-Royal?

Today, the CBC reports (link to their online story here) that Montreal’s city council passed a bylaw affecting the Plateau Mont-Royal area, in November, that effectively charges homeowners 10 per cent of the value of their land if they renovate more than 35 per cent of their buildings’ (mostly triplexes) facades, load-bearing walls and floors.

Montreal architecture firm La Shed, currently working on a project in the municipality, says they are very close to being hit with a $23,000 “park fee” on the project.

Yikes.

According to the new bylaw, a renovation of greater than 35 per cent in the borough will be treated as a complete demolition, and taxed accordingly.

Oh, and it’s not a renovation tax. Not even a renovation “revenue tool.” It’s a “park fee.”

“The park fees capture some of the wealth for the public interest,” said city councillor Alex Norris, according to the CBC report, “to ensure that we have a source of revenue to improve our parks.”

We thought the sources of revenues to improve parks in Canadian cities was historically done through municipal taxes. Apparently, it should now be paid for people that want to do extensive renovations.

“We don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that a certain amount of that wealth you’re generating should return to the public,” Norris said, apparently with a straight face. How the owner of the property has generated any wealth at all, if they want to live in their newly-renovated space rather than selling it, was not addressed by the councillor.


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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8 Comments » for A Montreal borough sticks its hands in renovators' pockets for five-figure "park fees"
  1. Tim Goforth says:

    Hi:
    Quebec is famous for its sensational tabloids. I’m stumped as to why I didn’t see Alex Norris’s picture on a front page in the grocery line up, riding an alien space ship into our airspace.
    He actually stated that “I only think its fair that the city gets some of this new wealth”
    I am guilty of lending credence to this stupidity by commenting on it. It seems that he has a primordial fear of “gentrification”. Maybe he’s afraid of having his favorite clothing store “Schraeters” replaced by some upscale haberdashery.

  2. I lived am living in MontrĂ©al for 50 years, of which 25 on This districk of PLATEAU MONT-ROYAL where this crazy Mayor Fernandez has such stupid ideas. Parking restrictions. Traveling on your byke only. empeaching trafic to cross trough it’s Streets from north to South except a total of 4 streets. And now make you pay extra taxes to the City if you decide to improve your appartment for a better living in hyour house.
    I am lucky I do not live anymore in this district.
    Good luck to those who do.

  3. Brian says:

    Yes, that sounds like something Quebec would do. Really, nothing about Quebecers should surprise anyone, anymore.

  4. Robert Sloan says:

    It sure does seem like “trades” are now seen by all levels of government as easy cash cow targets. Politicians have decided we have received more than our fair share. I don’t blame them here in Ontario. The trade unions through the Working Family Coalition Group decided the last 2 provincial elections at an enormous cost, and we bent over for the College of Trades to pick our pockets too. I have no doubt that this revenue tool will come to other areas too. It will end up assisting the underground economy. I believe we are way to quick to take positions like “what can you do” or “OH well…everyone else has the same burdens so we just pass on the extra cost”

  5. Alex Norris says:

    The original CBC story on which you based this post was riddled with errors. A good half a dozen lines in the story, plus the headline itself, all had to be corrected. A new bylaw with a clearer definition of what constitutes a demolition had to be introduced because we were witnessing many “disguised demolitions,” in which contractors took advantage of vague language in the previous bylaw to demolish most of a building, sometimes leaving it so weakened that the entire thing had to come down. We are not talking about standard renovations here, but rather extreme makeovers of buildings in which so much of them comes down that it constitutes a de facto demolition. As for park fees, we are hardly the only Montreal borough that charges them. None of these measures has prevented real estate values from soaring; the real-estate market on the Plateau is at an all-time high and the borough remains one of the most coveted locations to live in the entire city. Nor have renovations or construction projects slowed down. Less than half of 1% of renovation/construction projects on the Plateau are so extensive as to legally constitute a demolition. A handful of projects have been affected by the combined effect of the new demolition bylaw and park-fee provisions — fewer than six projects altogether. We have posted information on the borough website so that contractors and private individuals can calculate whether their project is so extensive that it constitutes a demolition.

    • Robert Koci says:

      Alex:
      Thank you for taking the time to clarify the situation for us. Can you provide us with a link to the website you refer to. If possible the page that defines what “constitutes a demolition.”
      Thanks again.
      Did the show have to publish a retraction?

  6. Alex Norris says:

    Robert,

    Here is the information you requested (in French):

    1. This three-page document lays out the procedures for getting a demolition permit as well as the rules defining what constitutes a demolition:
    http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/ARROND_PMR_FR/MEDIA/DOCUMENTS/D%C9MOLITION.PDF

    2. Here is a link to a worksheet that allows you to fill in blanks in order to calculate whether your project is so extensive that it will legally be considered a demolition:
    http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/ARROND_PMR_FR/MEDIA/DOCUMENTS/GRILLECALCULDEMOLITION.PDF

    I didn’t bother insisting on a retraction on the actual broadcast show; I figured it was more important to get the record straight on the web version of the story, since that is what stays up in perpetuity on the web.

    Thanks for republishing my comment as a separate web post. I appreciate your efforts to set the record straight.

    Best regards,

    Alex Norris
    City Councillor
    Jeanne-Mance district
    Plateau-Mont-Royal borough

  7. Tim Goforth says:

    Hi:
    I fail to see what Alex Norris is saying that will “set the record straight”. I’ve been renovating graystone triplexes in the plateau for 35 years.
    The only way you can add “real value” to most of the buildings is to undertake extensive work that more than often involves structural modifications, all new mechanicals & electrical, and incorporating more contemporary floor plans.
    There was a period when all you had to do was hire a fly by night floor sander for 40 cents a sq ft, a painter for $ 50 per room (paint included) and install a tub liner to increase the value of the property enough to satisfy the speculators. You could do all this without a permit.
    These type of “upfits” did nothing to add intrinsic value to the property or to extend the longevity of the building.
    With a realistic reno budget, a responsible knowledgeable contractor and assistance from the city, these buildings can be made to last another 100 years.
    What the city is now calling a “demolition” is the minimum amount of work required in most cases to undertake a meaningful renovation. I quoted a job last week that will cost $ 200,000 minimum (1500 ft, 3rd floor graystone) before I see how much work the structure requires.
    I don’t understand why the City is implementing policies that prevent or at least slow real improvements to these properties. I agree totally with the policies targeted at maintaining the facades and architectural integrity of the buildings exterior, but the “bones” of these buildings need substantial work in order that we might enjoy them well into the future.
    Let’s have some government programs in place that assist rather than discourage improvements.
    Note: Please ask Mr Norris for his password so that I can view the site he recommended.