On May 27, 2015 the South Vancouver Parks Society was a participant in a BC Property Assessment Appeal Board, appeal meeting. It was our first meeting of the appeal process after we had filed our appeal on April 30, 2015 with the representation of professional appraiser, Mr Jason Upton. Our appraiser had previously provided us an appraisal representing the value of the Oakridge Centre property and a debt security attached to the land title which was owned by the City. The debt security represented 10% of the current actual market value of the property and there are strict legal rules attached to that debt and the collection of that debt. The City never made full public disclosure on the true significance, ownership rights, and requirements attached to this debt security, secured by the City ownership to the 10% absolute fee simple interest of Oakridge Centre. The City also owns a purchase right to approximately 3% of the fee-simple interest of Oakridge Centre for a fee of $660,000. The City of Vancouver effectively owns 13% of the fee-simple interest of Oakridge Centre. Our Society engaged Mr.Upton to appeal a $367 million dollar assessment reduction which we had just observed prior to the records being adjusted downwards by one of Vancouver’s deputy assessors. If we had not identified this reduction then only a select group of individuals would have been aware, as it was discovered to have been decided between two individuals in a privately arranged agreement. Section 10(2) of the BC Assessment Act requires an error or omission to structure such a bypass amendment without any 3rd party oversight. We can see no sign that there was any error. In fact, after long investigation of the subject it appears that the initial assessment was the proper one and that the amended appraisal may have contained the error? We have come to this opinion by learning that the the revised valuation attributes zero value for that approved development potential which is known as the highest and best use. Thousands of luxury condominiums have been approved subject to some conditions and the conditions appear to look more like incentives than anything else. Through FOI requests we have obtained limited disclosure from the assessor but we have learned enough to know that they previously valued the property in a combined valuation form which attributed value to the development potential and the continuing operations of the shopping mall. In our recent appeal last summer a ruling was made that the highest and best use value should contain a combination of both values and that is what the original valuation appears to have included. Yesterday in Supreme Court, the lawyers for the assessor and the owner spent a great deal of time and energy suggesting that the original valuation information (property valuation summary “PVS”) would be of no use to anyone. They didn’t sound too believable. We previously posted some of the redacted pages of the PVS which you can look at for yourself. http://vanparks.ca/2016/07/05/bc-assessment-foi-correspondence-oakridge-lands/
May 12, 2015: Soon after our appeal was filed Mr Upton received a phone call from the landowners agent, Mr Paul Sullivan, who works for a firm named Burgess Cawley Sullivan Associates. Mr.Sullivan is a partner at that firm. It is primarily an appraisal firm although he is not an accredited appraiser and appears to focus more on what they classify as consulting. The appraisal Institute of Canada has told us that Mr.Sullivan is considered a retired appraiser so we would believe they know what they are talking about. Mr.Sullivan has also had an important position as the tax committee chair of the well known Urban Development Institute (UDI) whose Alberta chapter is a registered lobbyist in Alberta and BC operations have also been registered lobbyists in British Columbia from time to time.
Our Agent Withdraws
May 19, 2015: With much regret our trusted appraiser Mr.Upton withdrew his services soon after his conversation with Mr.Sullivan. Mr.Upton provided us a letter stating his reasons for withdrawing, which gave us even higher regard for Mr.Upton. Mr.Upton’s evidence was later submitted in our hearing but it has been largely ignored for reasons we cannot fully understand.
Feb 24, 2017: In yesterdays hearing, none of the lawyers even mentioned that we had ever submitted Mr.Upton’s appraisal or had him testify. It was as if our appraiser Mr.Upton had never existed? One of Burgess Cawley Sullivan’s partners attended yesterdays hearing.
No Report Required
May 27, 2015 was our first assessment appeal meeting in which communications were non confidential as we had not agreed to sign non disclosure agreements which is apparently one of the next steps with many appeals. In the meeting we asked if there was any written report to support the $367 million dollar assessment reduction. We were told that there was not any written report. We recorded that portion of the meeting and we feel it is our public duty to share this portion of that non confidential meeting. It appears to be the largest assessment reduction in BC history. We believe the voices responding to our questions were the Assessors lawyer and the landowner lawyer.
$50 million dollar private reduction – 508 Helmcken:
February 2015: We also learned around this time that Burgess Cawley Sullivan were involved in reducing the value of 508 Helmcken which was owned by the City of Vancouver at the time. The tenant of 508 Helmcken has indicated that they retained Burgess Cawley Sullivan Associates. Even if Burgess Cawley Sullivan were not working for the City, the City were required to approve the Section 10(2) agreed amendment. The City were notified of this effort and had to approve the private agreement. The City knew this reduction was being arranged as the City was selling the property. The City simultaneously hired Burgess Cawley Sullivan (through a 3rd party “Ernst & Young”), for another related contract. The City specifically demanded Ernst & Young engage Burgess Cawley Sullivan for a land value analysis of 508 Helmcken.
Land Value Analysis Report – 508 Helmcken
February 2015: Some time later we learned that Burgess Cawley and Sullivan had also been involved in the creation of a valuation analysis of 508 Helmcken which the City had contracted through other agents (Ernst & Young). This means that Burgess Cawley Sullivan Associates were working to have the value of the City owned land reduced by $50 million dollars at the same time that they were providing input into a valuation analysis of the property (contracted by the City), 17 months before the City (Seller) transferred the property.
More to come