Helpful farmer gets hefty tax bill

A Lacombe County farmer who tried to help out a friend paid a steep price — a tax bill that jumped more than 1,300 per cent.

A Lacombe County farmer who tried to help out a friend paid a steep price — a tax bill that jumped more than 1,300 per cent.

Peter Vander Leek said last year a friend with a welding business asked him if he could use a storage building on his farm 10 km west of Blackfalds

While he was reluctant at first, he agreed to rent out the building for a few months beginning last October to allow the man to use it to paint some equipment, he told county council Thursday.

Lacombe County staff found out about the business operating out of the building in January after a neighbour complained about a paint odour.

The county discovered the business and issued a stop work order Jan. 14. However, the business had also caught the eye of the county’s assessment department, which determined the building had been used for commercial purposes on Dec. 31, 2008, the day assessments are determined for county properties.

Since part of the property was now considered commercial use, Vander Leek’s property tax bill jumped from $266 to $3,874.

Vander Leek said he was out of the country when the inspections were done in January.

When he got his tax assessment he was shocked.

Tim Timmons, the county’s manager of corporate services, said Vander Leek could have appealed the assessment but did not do it before the appeal period lapsed.

The assessment was done correctly in accordance with county rules. Since the county collects school taxes for the province and a requisition for the Lacombe Foundation, the municipality is on the hook for $1,795.38.

Council voted to give Vander Leek a break. He does not have to pay the full amount, but must pay $1,909.57, which is the amount the county owes in school and foundation requisitions plus the previous assessment of $266.

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