Footy Sevens to pay property tax on Immaculata field

Ottawa Footy Sevens will now have to pay property taxes on Immaculata Field. Photo by Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay.

Ottawa Footy Sevens will now have to pay property taxes on Immaculata Field. Photo by Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay.

John Dance

The property tax exemption for the Immaculata High School’s commercialized turf sports field has been extinguished by Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), as sought by the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) with support from Councillor Shawn Menard.

“The total assessed value of Immaculata High School is $19,370,000, of which $2,332,700 is taxable at the commercial rate,” Paula Chung of MPAC’s media relations and issues management told The Mainstreeter following the assessment body’s ruling.

Although the City of Ottawa would not tell The Mainstreeter how much tax revenue this would bring in, the City issued a tax bill to the school board in July. Recourse to the City’s on-line property tax estimator suggests that the annual taxes would be about $60,000.

Asked if the taxes would also have to be paid for the previous years, Wendy Stephanson, the City’s chief financial officer responded, “Provincial legislation allows the City to retroactively bill for two years plus the current year, the date used for the bill is typically based on occupancy of the business or residence.”

Ottawa Footy Sevens, the company that refurbished the high school field in 2018 in exchange for use of the field in non-school hours, will be paying the bill. “I can confirm that the Board does not pay property taxes to MPAC,” Debbie Frendo, the responsible superintendent at the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB), told The Mainstreeter, “and any partnerships that may result in incremental tax assessments would become the responsibility of the Board’s partners, not the OCSB”.

Information on the impact of the new taxes on Footy Sevens’ operations and player fees was sought from the business but they had not responded to The Mainstreeter when this article was submitted.

“The MPAC decision brings a small measure of restoration of justice to the taxpayer,” notes Alexandra Gruca-Macaulay, one of the community association board members who had been involved with a community group that had worked to mitigate adverse impacts of the commercialized field.

The refurbishment of the field resulted in a much-improved facility for Immaculata students, but the changes were made with little consultation with or consideration for the neighbouring residents and the community at large. Previously, there was no night-time activity on the field, and in non-school hours community members could readily use the field.

During the pandemic, the OCSB and Footy Sevens provided daily public access to the field since Footy Sevens couldn’t make commercial use of it. Footy Sevens says, “Hundreds of hours of free community usage of the field have been made available to the public since the rejuvenation of the field and these hours have continued to be published here:https://ottawafootyblog.footysevens.com/blog/2019/05/25/community-usage-at-the-immaculata-high-school-field/”.

Before the Immaculata field was refurbished, OOECA argued that the proposed intensive commercial use of the field by Footy Sevens was not of a “scale and intensity that is compatible with neighbourhood character,” as is required by the existing zoning for the field. The City responded that in its view there was no change in use. Despite the property’s changed tax status, the City maintains this position of “no change in use” and says no rezoning is required.

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