Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday July 29, 2017
Waterfront Trust owes City of Hamilton $325,000 in taxes
The Hamilton Waterfront Trust owes the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes.
The arms-length agency — whose mandate is helping Hamiltonians connect with their waterfront — has unpaid arrears of $325,000 from 2016 and 2017, city tax director Maria Di Santo confirmed Tuesday.
The money owed stems from two properties — $280,000 for 57 Discovery Dr., the home of waterfront restaurant Sarcoa; and $45,000 for 17-47 Discovery Dr., which includes Williams Fresh Café.
According to the city’s property inquiry tool, 2017 taxes for 57 Discovery Dr. are $176,790; and $20,670 for 17-147 Discovery Dr.
In May 2017, the trust owed an additional $164,665 in taxes and interest on 57 Discovery Dr. from 2015. That was paid by July, according to a tax certificate.
HWT executive director Werner Plessl declined comment and referred all questions to board member and Ward 2 Coun. Jason Farr.
Farr said the board directed a tax payment be made of about $175,000 about six weeks ago.
“This wouldn’t even be an issue if certain people paid their rent,” he said Tuesday.
He said the board is trying to manage its priorities, which include legal fees, maintaining their services and paying taxes.
“We are not ignoring any of them,” he said. “As a responsible councillor and board member, I feel we are living up to our fiduciary responsibility.”
The trust has racked up “many, many thousands of dollars” in “unaccounted for” legal fees, Farr said.
HWT has been locked in a $15-million legal battle that waterfront eatery Sarcoa launched against the trust and the city in late 2015 for preventing it from throwing patio parties with amplified music.
The trust began its life with a $6.3-million endowment to settle a lawsuit by the City of Hamilton that contended it hadn’t been properly compensated by the former Hamilton Harbour Commission for its share of port profits dating back decades.
But the seed money has run out and the trust’s revenues now come from capital project funding from other levels of government and sales from the various businesses that the trust operates around the western end of the harbour front.
In the past, the trust has struggled to stay out of the red. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)