Council approves tax exemption for company building $9 million retail agriculture development

A company looking to build a 30,240 square foot retail agricultural development on 15th Street East has received a complete tax exemption for 2021, and partial tax exemption from 2022 to 2024.

The move will cost the City more than $300,000 in taxes over the next four years, but Mayor Greg Dionne says it’s worth it to spur development during a difficult time.

“We are going to be in a recession once this pandemic is over,” Dionne said. “The key is to get people back to work, and we are going to get people back to work by giving incentives and attracting business.”

Prism Holdings Ltd. originally hoped to begin development on the $9 million project this spring. The project will take around seven months to build and employ roughly 120 people once opened.

Prism will receive a 100 per cent exemption in 2021, followed by a 75 per cent exemption in 2022, a 50 per cent exemption in 2023, and a 25 per cent exemption in 2024.

“This investment will clearly increase the city taxes owing on this property,” Prism Holdings president Derryl Hudye wrote in a letter to city council. “This (tax exemption) will greatly help to offset the initial investment in the property. With this anchor tenant established, further development of the property will be forthcoming.”

Dionne faced questions from city council at a meeting on April 6 over whether other businesses were receiving similar deals. He said council has approved similar requests in the past, such as a four year tax exemption agreement on a 94 bed assisted living project built by the Caleb Group. That request was made in 2014.

Dionne also argued helping Prism Holdings would help boost further development in the area.

“It’s on a busy street, and that vacancy’s been here about as long as I’ve been here,” he said during the meeting. “What I like about it is it’s three acres. I think we’ve got seven or eight acres left, and we’ll have lots of interest now, once we get a major development on one site, it attracts other people.”

Once developed, city administration estimates the property will generate more than $120,000 in municipal tax revenue.

Prism will still have to pay local improvement levies during the four year exemption plan.

Not all city councillors were on board with the exemption. Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky said reluctantly supported the measure, saying too many tax exemptions would hamper the City’s ability to operate and repair critical infrastructure.

Couns. Charlene Miller and Terra Lennox-Zepp were the only councillors to vote against the proposal. Both councillors questioned whether the proposal was in line with what other cities were offering. Lennox-Zepp also asked if the tax exemption was vital to the development’s success. City administrators told her there was “no factual evidence” either way, but added that Prism indicated that it was important in their letter to council.