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Dryden continues battle with MPAC via courts

DRYDEN -- Dryden is challenging the province's tax assessment corporation in court.
(Jon Thompson,

DRYDEN -- Dryden is challenging  the province's tax assessment corporation in court. 

The municipality has filed a leave to appeal in Ontario's Superior Court to resolve a 2012 property assessment that saw the Dryden’s Domtar Mill’s value fall from $51 million to $14 million.

Under the terms of the Assessment Board Review decision, Dryden was ordered to pay $5.4 million back to the company in taxes it had paid between 2009 and 2012.

Dryden is now claiming the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) misrepresented the city in the assessment hearings when it didn’t challenge Domtar’s value comparison between its Dryden Mill and its flagship mill in Marlboro, South Carolina.

The adjudicating Assessment Review Board sided with Domtar, the municipality will argue, because MPAC failed to present contrary evidence in Dryden’s defence.  

“Before the Board, the municipality took the position that MPAC’s position was correct. Now it seeks to advance a different position,” the city’s submission reads.

“At no time during the hearings did the Moving Party (MPAC) raise any objection to evidence, nor did it call any evidence.”

Dryden Mayor Craig Nuttall has been among MPAC’s harshest critics since the 2012 assessment. Under his leadership, Dryden recovered the $1.7 million tax disparity in 2014 by adjusting its large industrial levy and increasing the mill’s taxes 134 per cent. 

Nuttall intends to appeal on procedural grounds, arguing it’s not too late to present a case that the mill should be worth $25 million.   

“We made a mistake because we didn’t hire a lawyer going after our rights,” Nuttall said. “We should have had a lawyer that was knowledgeable in assessment but we didn’t. Really, MPAC said the assessment should be $25 million and because MPAC, I don’t think, had the proper tools to work with, the ARB said we have to take Domtar’s word.

“I don’t think they’d sell that mill over there for $14 million. It’s worth a heck of a lot more than that.”

While Nuttall expects the company to present its own case, he argues wood market conditions have rebounded since 2012 and government assistance has improved the profitability potential for Domtar’s Dryden Mill.

“Domtar’s doing quite well now. It’s not on profitability. It’s more on what the markets are like. Well, the markets are really good, especially now that they got $2 million from the feds to upgrade the pulp machines. That’s going to bring in good revenue to them.”

After the court decides on Dryden's appeal, it will face Domtar's appeal on its 2013 assessment. The 2013 MPAC process has pegged the mill's process at $43.6 million. A Domtar spokeswoman said the company filed before the sunset date and she anticipated the mill's value will be contingent on the outcome of Dryden's case.  

The news comes in the same week as Thunder Bay abandoned challenging the value of the Resolute mill, which fell from $72 million to $32.6 million in 2012. The city has not released how much it will pay the company in back taxes.

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