‘A bit of a kick in a gut’: Alberta’s oldest vet clinic on facing a 98% tax hike

Many small businesses in Calgary are facing big increases to their property tax bills, but one veterinary clinic says the tax hike it’s facing could send them to the doghouse.

Last January, downtown’s Animal Clinic on 9 Avenue S.W., filed an appeal after their property assessment went up about $1.75 million.

While it has to wait to have that appeal heard next week, Alberta’s oldest vet clinic is now facing a tax hike that it says could cripple the business.

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    “The number is more abstract when you’re assuming what it’s going to be but when you get the actual number, it’s a bit of a kick in the gut,” co-owner and veterinarian Dr. Joe Waldman said.

    The city’s assessment for 2015 came in at about $2.28 million. This year, it was over $4 million.

    But the property tax bill, arriving last week, was the real bone of contention – a 98 per cent increase.

    “I think it’s just unfortunate that there’s sort of a callousness that goes into property assessment that doesn’t take into account things like the benefit that a business can have to a community and the history that business has with the community as well,” Waldman said.

    The city was unable to comment on the matter Tuesday, but Monday, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi suggested that the city should reconsider its model for taxing small business.

    Since it opened in 1941, the surroundings of the Animal Clinic’s now rare one-storey building have undergone a dramatic change.

    “Certainly some developers are looking at opportunities to look at putting up what would appear to mostly be condo towers,” Waldman said.

    The clients have also changed.

    “Now we see dogs and cats only but it used to be a mixed practice and so horses and cows and everything would come down here,” the veterinarian said.“The original veterinarian, Dr. Anderson, used to service most of southern Alberta.”

    Now the clinic services mostly downtown residents – a valuable service for neighbourhoods like Mount Royal, the Beltline, Sunnyside and Kensington.

    While the owners wait for the outcome of the property assessment appeal, they say they’re now facing uncertainty about managing costs and location along with the possibility of losing their loyal downtown clients.

    Editor’s note: This story originally reported the veterinary clinic’s property tax assessment increased by 89 per cent from 2015 to 2016. It has since been corrected to 98 per cent.

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