Houseboater cries 'foul'
He say non-decision by property tax board being misrepresented

by Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 18/97) - A decision made last year by the board responsible for hearing property tax appeals is being misrepresented to the territorial Supreme Court, says one houseboat owner.

Fraser Weir asked the Board of Revision this week to clarify for Justice H.L. Irving the decision it made last June on houseboaters' appeals of their 1995 assessments.

He referred the board to a revised statement of claim registered March 24 by the city in its civil action brought against three houseboaters.

The city is asking the Supreme Court to confirm that houseboats are subject to city bylaws and property taxation.

Though not named in the suit, Weir is among a group of Yellowknife Bay houseboaters who are involved as intervenors. Intervenor status is granted to those not named in actions that could affect them.

He brought the board's attention to the representation of its decision during appeals of 1996, the second year in a row houseboats were assessed.

In the revised statement of claim, the city says the board "notified the defendants of its decision to uphold the assessments attributed to the defendants' floating structures...."

Weir said the statement indicates the board had decided the city could tax houseboaters.

"I ask for the board's clarification that the statement, "its decision to uphold the assessments" does not properly or accurately represent to Mr. Justice Irving the true nature of the board's decision last year," said Weir.

Weir pointed out the board refused to consider whether the city had a right to tax houseboaters because that matter was then, and still is, before the courts.

The city's lawyer, Tracey Foster, refused to comment on the matter.

"I don't answer to Mr. Weir. He's entitled to his opinions and that's all there is to it," she said. "(The case) is before the courts and that's where it properly belongs."

Weir went further, saying the board was shirking its duty by refusing to answer the question of whether the city has jurisdiction over houseboaters.

"It is a question that the law entitles citizens to bring to the board and it is a question the law authorizes the board to decide," he said.

The board will make a decision today regarding the assessment appeals and Weir's requests that it clarify for the court last year's decision.

Meanwhile, houseboaters may have gained a powerful ally in their battle to prevent the city from asserting its jurisdiction over the bay.

The federal Department of Justice has indicated if the matter goes to trial it may join the fray to defend the Canadian Coast Guard's jurisdiction over the Bay, said both Weir and fellow houseboater Matthew Grogono.

A department spokesman, however, could not confirm their plans regarding the case.

If the city were granted jurisdiction over the waters, the decision would establish a precedent that would threaten coast guard control of all Canadian waterways.

The next court date for the case is slated for May 8. Weir told the board houseboaters will be asking Justice Irving to dismiss the case.

Grogono said lawyer Austin Marshall will be arguing city council never directed or gave administration authority to take the matter to court.