For anyone with a memory, let me remind you about Expo 86. Skytrain was built, in part as premium transportation system for the fair. After the buildings were dismantled the property was sold for a whopping 16 million dollars. I recall the taxpayers had to pay for the environmental clean up as well. This was prime heavy industrial property for well near a century so the toxins that lay in the soil was nothing to sneeze at. I don’t recall the price tag but to be sure, it ate into the 16 million quite a bit. Today we have prime real estate in all those lands. Who paid for it? You and I, the taxpayer. What makes it prime real estate? Well the view, the location and perhaps its four Skytrain stations.
This week’s news announced the world’s billionaires according to Forbes and at number 17, worth 33.3 billion is the man who managed to flip this 16 million dollar property (I can’t even imagine what it is worth today).
I don’t blame him and I have no problem with free enterprise. He obviously put money of his own into the redevelopment and his holdings have paid monumental taxes to the provincial government and the City of Vancouver. I can’t even say this is the only reason why he has $33.3 billion today. I am sure he has made other wise investments.
Others made a killing on these lands as well and there were many speculators, nearby property owners and real estate agents that became instant millionaires. They probably paid their taxes and some managed to divert their income to offshore locations.
Here is the point I want to make. I paid for this. I paid for Skytrain to make this a valuable piece of real estate. Is it too much to add a minute fraction of additional property taxes to those lands that will go directly to Translink? Can we not take a small percentage off the commission of the agents that sell property within these lands? We have to pay an additional tax to buy a used car in this province so why can’t the province take a transit levy to sell property in these lands?
If you think this property is unique, look at other developments. There are Metrotown, Walley, and a new mall on Sea Island, new developments at Oakridge Mall and Brentwood Mall, there’s downtown New Westminster and Sapperton. Every development around the Skytrain stations can pay for Translink improvements. We have given them the infrastructure that leads to their success so why should they not pay extra for the privilege?
I have no problem with a transit plan going forth. I just don’t think the same people that have paid and paid and paid and paid should be paying more. I don’t think the same people that have squandered our contribution should be getting more or running things in the future. Yes, you can say that less congestion benefits us all but it obviously has benefitted some more than others.
I have often been reminded that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Well, 20 forms of taxes have left our pockets in some way or form to support Translink. Will number 21 be the magic cure-all? You decide.
Nick Sanger, Maple Ridge