British Columbia

Pitt Meadows council wants CP Railway to pay more local taxes due to company's impact on city

Council in Pitt Meadows, B.C., wants to levy more local taxes on the Canadian Pacific Railway to better reflect the impact its operations have on the city's residents.

Councillors vote to begin process to reclassify rail operations to reflect noise, pollution they bring

Pitt Meadows city council wants to collect more tax revenue from the CP Railway, which cuts through the centre of the municipality. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Council in Pitt Meadows, B.C., wants Canadian Pacific Railway to pay more local taxes to better reflect the impact its operations have on the city's residents.

On Tuesday night, council voted to direct staff to kick off a push to have the tax classification changed for the railway, which cuts right through the middle of the city and creates noise and pollution, according to the mayor.

It's the start of a long lobbying effort that will have to go through the Lower Mainland Local Government Association before it's taken to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and finally the B.C. government.

City officials say it would increase the taxes CP Railway pays Pitt Meadows from the 2020 total of about $1.7 million to more than $2.1 million.

If council is ultimately successful, the impact would not be limited to Pitt Meadows — the change would take effect across the province, meaning any municipality with railroads and railway operations would receive more tax revenue from rail companies.

Railways are currently given a tax classification of Class 6, which is described as "business and other" and mostly covers properties like offices and retail space. Pitt Meadows council wants to have that changed to Class 5, which is light industrial.

The impacts of the railway in Pitt Meadows, according to Mayor Bill Dingwall, include diesel particulate, noise and vibrations affecting residential neighbourhoods, and loud bangs from train cars coupling along the tracks — all of which he considers inconsistent with the current classification.

Bill Dingwall, Mayor of Pitt Meadows, speaks at a TransLink Mayors Council meeting in July 2019. Dingwall is pushing to have railways' tax classification changed in B.C. — something that would bring his city about $440,000 in additional revenue each year. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

He said the company runs about 45 trains through Pitt Meadows each day, and about 1,000 trucks access the large intermodal facility near the Pitt River, where goods are loaded and unloaded. He said the operation continues 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

"If you look at the impacts of rail going through your community — it's not the same as a dentist," Dingwall said.

Proposed railway expansion

The railway's tax rate recently caught council's attention when the company proposed a major expansion in Pitt Meadows on about 100 acres of agricultural land it had purchased to the south of its intermodal facility. 

Dingwall said the entire council and many members of the community are opposed to the expansion, which would include grain silos and fuel storage — both considered a high hazard, especially for a city without a full time fire department.

If the railway's tax rate is changed to Class 5, the annual taxes on the proposed facility would increase by about $660,000.

Dingwall said the council is unanimously behind a separate plan involving the railway — a $141 million project to build road crossings that wouldn't be interrupted by regular trains.

CBC News has contacted CP Railway for a reaction to the council's vote.

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