By Paul J. Henderson, Black Press
Nigel and Joan Argyle have been farming vegetables and running their Popkum garden centre for 35 years.
Argyle’s Garden Market is a popular spot for gardeners and hanging basket buyers, but it’s not exactly a huge money maker.
And so when the two 82-year-olds saw their notice from BC Assessment showed a land value increase of 409 per cent, they were shocked.
“It’s basically killing me,” Nigel told Black Press. “It’s ridiculous.”
While property taxes in the rural areas outside of the City of Chilliwack may be lower than for those in the city, for the Argyles and their tight margins, a tax hike from about $6,000 last year to an estimated $20,000 year could put them out of business down the road.
And while their commercial assessment jump was staggering, some of their neighbours surrounding the Yale Road-Highway 9 roundabout also had big jumps in value.
The land at their garden centre at 52905 Yale Road went from a valuation of $241,000 last year to $1.23 million this year.
Across Highway 9 the owners of the Tim Hortons-Esso property saw a land increase from $251,800 to $1.15 million a 358 per cent increase.
Next to them, the Wildcat Grill land jumped from $219,800 to $805,900 or a 266 per cent increase.
But the owners of the property where the new Petro-Canada and Subway is located got one of the biggest shocks as the land went from $609,800 to $6.2 million, a 917 per cent increase.
But the largest jump of all—and possibly part of the reason behind the focus on this small area—was 52892 Bunker Rd., the location of Minter Gardens, which closed on Oct. 15, 2013.
Since last year, the Minter Gardens land jumped from a value of $364,100 to $3.8 million, a 947 per cent increase. Total assessment was at $5 million, which actually might make sense since the property (along with adjacent 9980 Llanberis Way) is listed by Colliers Canada as a “beautifully landscaped income producing property” with residential development potential. List price: $5.95 million.
As soon as you start moving away from the roundabout, however, assessments saw just minor increases. Just north of the Petro-Canada is 52964 Yale Rd., which has no buildings, and similarly jumped in value by 308 per cent. Move one more address to the east and the land value increase was just four per cent.
The same can be said for residential increases to the west of the Wildcat Grill on Yale Road.
As for other commercial properties in the area across Highway 1, properties along Bridal Falls Road saw only minor increases. The Rainbow Ranch RV Park, for example, saw a zero per cent land value increase. The Rancher’s Restaurant property went up four per cent, and the Bridal Falls Motel went up 4.8 per cent.
But if increases are supposed to rely upon recent sales in the area, some say they don’t make sense. Popkum resident, local realtor and one-time political candidate Michael Henshall said he couldn’t figure out the massive jumps in the roundabout property assessments either.
“There are no commercial properties in the area selling on regular basis to justify these huge increases,” Henshall said.
For its part, BC Assessment said the value of these properties “needed to increase to be more reflective of a probable selling price.”
Brian Smith, deputy assessor for the Fraser Valley Region, said development of the properties near the Argyles spurred the big jumps.
“In a review and in discussion with some people in this particular area, we felt that last year’s assessment did not reflect the market value of the property so a reassessment of the year did occur,” Smith said via email.
As for the Argyles, they would like to retire and have three times in the last four years listed their property for sale for more than $1 million with not one single offer.
As for the business, Nigel and Joan say they don’t take a salary and after all the bills and employees are paid after a four-month season, they take in just $40,000. So a property tax jump of $14,000 is substantial.
Nigel says the tax bill will be too much, considering there are few services at their address, including no sewage.
As for this season, plants have been ordered and Argyle’s Garden Market will open as planned, but the future is certainly in doubt now, although they have taken steps to appeal the assessment.
“We don’t want to close up,” Nigel said.