Red Deer County rejects tax relief request

A couple whose mansion burned down in March will not get a tax refund from Red Deer County.

A couple whose mansion burned down in March will not get a tax refund from Red Deer County.

Matthew and Robin Berresford came to county council on Tuesday to ask that a portion of their 2016 property taxes be refunded because the house has been uninhabitable since the March 2 fire.

The taxes had been fully paid on the home just northeast of River Bend Golf and Recreation Area. The Berresfords were seeking a municipal tax refund of $13,415.51, which is a prorated calculation based on the nearly 10 months they have not been able to live in the house this year.

Robin Berresford told council that since the fire the couple, who have two young children, have “lived nothing short of a nightmare.

“We’re not asking you for charity. We’re just asking that you treat us fairly.”

The home was insured but compensation has not been settled yet. At one time the home was listed on Kijiji for $7.7 million.

The couple had noted in a letter to the county that taxes in Fort McMurray had been waived following the wildfire there.

In a report to council, county staff noted that taxes have not been cancelled or refunded previously following a house fire, nor is it a common practice elsewhere. The Fort McMurray situation is unique and the province offset the refunded property taxes by providing the equivalent financial support to the municipality.

Typically, property taxes are among the expenses falling under insurance plans, council was told.

Coun. Connie Huelsman was sympathetic but said the county has not refunded taxes after other house fires and this could set a precedent.

“I totally feel for your situation. However, I feel it is an insurance claim and that’s out of the county’s hands.”

Mayor Jim Wood also expressed his sympathy, adding insurance claims can take a long time to settle.

“But I do believe I don’t want to re-write policy today.”

Council voted unanimously to turn down the refund request.

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