Lawsuit will linger on
The lawsuit between the City of Cornwall and the Municipal Property Assessment Corp. (MPAC) was put on the back burner soon after it was launched in mid-July, and it will likely stay there for many months more.
The city is suing MPAC to seek some form of relief for the “inaccurate assessments” of multiple large commercial properties in the community going back several years. Those assessments have been successfully appealed by the owners – large corporations such as Canadian Tire, Target and Shoppers Drug Mart – who argued their property values were set too high, and they have been overpaying on their property taxes.
As a consequence, the municipality had to return already-spent tax revenues, which blew a $6.4-million hole in the city’s finances, and has helped drive residential property taxes increases in the process.
On July 11, the City of Cornwall launched a lawsuit against MPAC, arguing the corporation had been negligent when conducting its assessments. MPAC responded on July 17, notifying the court it intended to defend itself against Cornwall’s allegations.
Then nothing happened. For several months.
Normally, MPAC would have been required to submit its own counterarguments against the city’s claims of negligence to the court within 30 days, but it never did. That is because the municipality agreed to let the lawsuit wait until the appeal of the property assessment for Walmart – in one case the former Target warehouse – is completed.
“MPAC filed a Notice of Intent to Defend, but we have not yet filed a Statement of Defence because Cornwall provided a waiver of defence pending the conclusion of the Walmart distribution centre appeals at the Assessment Review Board, or until either party (MPAC or Cornwall) decides to proceed with the Superior Court litigation,” confirmed Cathy Ranieri Sweenie, communications director for MPAC.
The city decided it was best to give MPAC time to resolve the Walmart appeal, because the municipality needs to know the outcome of that appeal so it can give a full accounting to the court of the financial cost it has suffered because of poor assessments.
CAO Maureen Adams explained the reason the city launched the lawsuit before knowing the outcome of the Walmart appeal so that there would be no possibility of losing the chance to sue because of any statutes of limitations.
This does mean it could be a long time before the case goes in front of a judge, much less resolved. Adams expects it will be many months before the Walmart appeal is finished.
As of late September, that appeal was still in the discovery phase where the parties are gathering documents and information they need to make their cases. On Sept. 28, the Assessment Review Board ruled against a motion put forward by Walmart in July seeking certain documents from MPAC. email@example.com