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MPAC reassessment reverses large tax increase on Woolwich farm property

Lots of luck and a little bit of maple syrup were the key for Carlo Tucci to ending his battle with the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.

Last year, Tucci’s Benjamin Road agricultural property was reassessed by MPAC and he was shocked to find out 15 of his 45 acres was now considered residential, quadrupling his property taxes.

As it turns out, tapping trees is considered farming under the Assessment Act, allowing for a reversal of the assessment.

Along with a classification change, last year’s reassessment of the inaccessible piece of land came with an almost $3,000 property tax bill. The land had previously been assessed as agricultural, Tucci says the annual bill was closer to $700. He rents the other 30 acres to a local farmer.

He immediately filed an appeal, but he didn’t need to see it all the way through.

“I got lucky. I must be honest with you. It has been a very, very difficult, frustrating and stressful battle. I was working with MPAC, and because my wooded lot is actually fine for maple syrup, I qualify as agricultural. Did I get lucky or what? Had that not been the case, I would be stuck.”

It was a casual chat with friends that alerted Tucci he could have found a way to get his land reclassified.

“It was unbeknownst to me, and someone in conversation just goes, ‘don’t you know that’s farming?’ and I didn’t know that,” he said. “So MPAC came out, we trudged through the 30 acres  to get to that back bush. We all had to trudge our way in there and take their pictures.”

He says he shouldn’t have had to go through this at all.

“Why would you penalize someone who maintains a wooded lot. It is so good for everyone. The Grand River Conservation Authority and the Region of Waterloo both say I can’t remove a tree, I can’t change the landscape in any way. How can you even call that residential?” he said.

The Township of Woolwich was behind Tucci throughout the appeal process, holding face-to-face meetings with MPAC, and passing a resolution to the Ministry of Finance asking them to review their policies.

“We wanted the ministry to take a look at how they are treating farm properties, as well as woodland, wood lots, wetlands and making sure that they are not penalizing farmers,” said Richard Petherick, Woolwich’s director of finance.

He also met with a vice-president of MPAC and explored alternative routes for Tucci to follow with his property assessment.

“His property wasn’t large enough (for the Managed Forest Program). He never would have qualified.”

Tucci couldn’t say enough about how helpful the township was with his fight to restore his property tax rate.

“I have to make a point to say that the Woolwich Township was very supportive. (Mayor) Sandra Shantz, (Coun.) Mark Bauman, he was very supportive, as was Richard Petherick. In fact, all of council agreed that it was wrong,” adding that he expected a bit more help from the region with his problem. “They disappointed me. I thought they would be more of an advocate for me.”

Now that everything is back to the way it was with Tucci’s property, he still wants to support those going through the same thing.

“Don’t give up. Just because it is a law, doesn’t mean it is always right,” he said.

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