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Taxes on south Barrie farmland could skyrocket with zoning change

Taxes on the property are $8,250 this year, but city treasurer says they grow to anywhere from $50,000 to $175,000 or higher with new zoning
Farmland in south-end Barrie, alongside Highway 400 at Harvie Road.

Plans to extend a temporary-use bylaw to farm a south-end Barrie property will ripen a little longer.

Council decided to refer the matter of 15 Harvie Rd. to the Nov. 29 general committee meeting instead of dealing with it Wednesday night.

Mark Resnick from SmartCentres REIT, which applied for the agricultural use on behalf of Barrie-Bryne Developments, argued the extension would not slow development on the west side of Highway 400, south of Harvie Road and east of Thrushwood Drive.

“As a developer, we don’t want idle lands to sit vacant, but the municipal approval process does take time and we have actively been pursuing those approvals since 2019,” said Resnick. “These remaining permissions will still take a minimum of nine months to a year.

“We do not believe the permission to farm, if granted, is a disincentive to development,” he said. “A refusal of this application in our view will not advance development any sooner and allowing for the additional year of growth, for the additional year of farming, will allow us to support our farmer for an additional year.”

Map of 15 Harvie Rd., in south-end Barrie. | Image supplied

Councillors did not discuss the matter Wednesday because referral motions are non-debatable.

The temporary-use bylaw to permit farming there does allow a lower tax rate for agricultural use.

Coun. Gary Harvey, who represents the area, has said he has great difficulty giving a multi-million-dollar developer a break on taxes when Barrie residents don’t get one. 

Property taxes on this land are $8,250 this year, when it’s zoned agricultural. If the extension isn’t granted, the land would be re-assessed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) zoned for light industrial, general commercial and environmental protection (EP).

Craig Millar, the city’s chief financial officer, says MPAC will need to assess the property to determine the assessed value and tax classes before the city can estimate a tax value.

But Deputy Mayor Robert Thomson asked for a ballpark number of the difference in taxes with a zoning change

Millar’s guesstimate was a range of anywhere from $50,000 to $175,000 plus, in total.

Mayor Alex Nuttall suggested SmartCentres make up the difference in the two levels of taxation.

“It’s very difficult for us to look our citizens in the eyes on this and establish that developers are able to get cuts, but individuals are not,” he said.

Resnick said he could take that request back to the developer.

Other reasons why SmartCentres said it would be appropriate to grant this one-year extension includes reducing nuisances in the area and no negative impact on the farmer by the loss of cash crops.

City council rezoned this land Aug. 16, 2023 to permit 29.6 acres of commercial and light industrial uses along Highway 400 to the east of the Bryne Drive extension, and 155 residential units in the form of semi-detached dwellings and townhouses, as well as two blocks for mid-rise apartment buildings, a school block and a public park, to the west of the Bryne Drive extension. 

Resnick said it would be a phased development, subject to market conditions, and there is a requirement for consultation with First Nations for a portion of this property.

The land will be divided by the future Bryne Drive south extension.