Committee supports $2.9M tax break for Porsche dealership

Ottawa's finance committee has unanimously approved a tax break worth up to $2.9 million for a future Porsche dealership on the main business strip of a lower-income area, despite residents who argued it would be "social assistance for millionaires."

Mayor Jim Watson says city will end up with an extra $1M in taxes over 10 years

Mark Motors plans to replace two existing car dealerships at the corner of Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard with a new Porsche dealership. (City of Ottawa/Q9 Planning and Design)

Ottawa's finance committee has unanimously approved a tax break worth up to $2.9 million for a future Porsche dealership on the main business strip of a lower-income area — despite residents who argued it would be "social assistance for millionaires."

Mayor Jim Watson, however, called approving the grant "a very good deal for taxpayers".

    The local Mrak family, owners of Mark Motors, are the first applicants of a two-year-old City of Ottawa program aimed at revitalizing Montreal Road in Ottawa's Vanier neighbourhood.

    If Mark Motors builds a flagship Porsche store at Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard, city staff project the site's property taxes would spike to $355,000 annually, or 14 times more than the owners currently pay. In exchange for upgrading the property, the city would pay the Mraks a grant worth up to 75 per cent of the difference over 10 years.

    Watson said it would put the city $1 million ahead if the Porsche store is built.

    "It is not some bail out for a fancy car company," Watson told reporters. "It's injecting more money into the city coffers so we can provide greater social services, more social housing, greater infrastructure."

    The Porsche dealership would create 20 more jobs than the 40 at the site's existing luxury car dealership, the owners said. City staff said they hope five or six more such applications will be submitted in the coming years to act as a "magnet" for renewal in Vanier.

    "It's the kind of investment we're hoping to see more of along Montreal Road," said Don Herweyer, the city's director of economic development and long-range planning.

    Porsche no gateway to Vanier, residents say

    Brother and sister Michael and Lisa Mrak told committee they grew up nearby and want to invest in the area.

    The Quartier Vanier Business Improvement Area supported the family's community involvement and said their investment was a sign of confidence in the neighbourhood's future.

    "Why can't Vanier have nice things, too?" added Quartier Vanier's chair, Mark Kaluski, who said the brand name Porsche should be irrelevant in deciding whether to approve the application.

    The site is just beyond the Vanier neighbourhood, but is within its business improvement area and part of the section of Montreal Road the city has designated for such grants.

    Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King, supported the community improvement grant and underscored it was set up to expand the tax base and is "designed not to draw upon the public purse."

    Mark Motors plans to spend $17 million to replace the Maserati showroom. The city is currently doing extensive work on Montreal Road and says the site would be a 'gateway' to Vanier. (CBC)

    Sam Hersh saw it differently in the public delegation he gave.

    "Money that is supposed to be taxed but is untaxed is money that is lost that could have been used," Hersh argued.

    "To me, this is equivalent to providing social assistance to a millionaire," said resident Philippe Denault.

    He dismissed city staff's assessment that the Porsche dealership would be a suitable "gateway" to Vanier, saying that was "detached from reality."

    Several delegations said a car dealership, no matter how nice, was not in keeping with the city's goal of creating pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods. Benches outside of a Porsche showroom did not constitute public space, they said.

    Given the unanimous support at finance and economic development committee, the Mraks' grant application is likely to receive full city council approval on May 26.


    Kate Porter


    Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past two decades, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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