Property assessment killing AR business
Strangled by taxes
By Heather Killen
Maybe you can't go home again.
Stephen MacDonald, owner of Annapolis Royal Wellness Centre and Spa, grew up in Upper Granville and moved away about 20 years ago. He's owned businesses in Toronto and Mexico, but recently he decided to move back to the area and invest in the community he grew up in.
He says he wanted to take a chance and start a new business here, partly because he saw a commercial opportunity here and partly because he wanted his wife and daughter to experience what life in small town Nova Scotia is like.
But things aren’t quite the way he imagined they’d be.
These days his bills are growing faster than his business. When he bought the Grange Street building in 2007, he paid approximately $20,000 for the building that was assessed at $70,000. The affordable space enabled him to extensively renovate the building.
He added he knew his next property assessment would reflect the improvements he made to the building and he had forecast this projected increase into his business plan. But what he didn’t foresee is the assessment would jump twice within two years. "You start off with a business plan and when your assessment increases to $170,000, you think now you're on the limit," he said. "But there's no way you can plan for this."
The first year his assessment increased to $170,000. Then it increased again to $270,000. He says he now pays about $8,000 in taxes and is being forced to lay-off one of his employees. He added that this isn't the first business he's had and that he goes into new enterprises with his eyes open.
He knows what to expect the first year, and that it's too early to feel this kind of pressure. Even though he got a deal on the property, it's not sustainable for new businesses to carry this kind of tax burden. The property taxes are strangling his business, he added.
And given there are five businesses for sale in Annapolis Royal, a town with about 400 people, he is wondering what vision people are building for the future of the area. While he sees the potential in the town, he doesn’t understand why more isn’t being done to revitalize the business community "People want to come back," he said. “But it's hard to convince someone to invest here when you can't make the bottom line to meet in the middle."