The Court of Queen's Bench has ruled against the City of Weyburn, going in favour of a developer who protested having the costs of a cleanup and landscaping added to their tax bill.
In a ruling issued on July 29 by Justice Guy Chicoine, the applicant, Express Homes Ltd., owned by developer Gasha Gill, was granted their request to have a decision by city council quashed which added the cost of cleanup and landscaping to their tax bill, and subsequently was part of a lien placed on the property when the bill wasn't paid. While prohibiting the city from placing these costs in a lien against the property, the justice did leave the door open to the city to pursue cost recovery through other legal means.
Justice Chicoine said the City didn't have the authority to complete landscaping on the properties on Johnson Drive, as per notices made under the "Property Maintenance Bylaw", as part of an effort to clean up an unsightly mess on three properties. "The costs incurred by the City of Weyburn to complete the landscaping on these properties far exceed the amount which Express Homes Ltd. might have anticipated to simply remove and dispose construction material and miscellaneous debris or to control growth of weeds," said the ruling. "The City of Weyburn is prohibited from taking any further steps to register or enforce tax liens placed against these properties as a means of enforcing payment of such expenses or costs."
The original cleanup order was made by the previous chief building inspector for the city, in mid-April, 2010, on three properties on Johnson Drive; the order said the work was to be done by May 16, otherwise the work would be done by the city with the costs applied to the property taxes.
The city indicated that these three properties were a source of many complaints to the city in regards to weed growth and a lack of proper landscaping; after two years of unsatisfactory progress, the orders were then issued in 2010 to complete the work as ordered. After the work was done, the city invoiced the developer for $10,346, and said if it wasn't paid the city would then register a tax lien against the property, and in the case of non-payment, the city would then try to gain title to the property under the Tax Enforcement Act.
Justice Chicoine determined that the city could not carry out their action according to the zoning bylaw, as these were detached dwelling units, and the bylaw exempts these kinds of units.
"It is evident that this legislation does not give carte blanche to the city to complete landscaping work on private property at any cost and then simply recover the cost as a tax against the property affected, without giving the owner the right to have his day in court," said the justice.