Lafford in line for $1.1 million tax break on new Sackville bldg.

Kieran Miller

At its next meeting on August 8th, Tantramar Town Council will be asked to approve a 50% reduction in property taxes on the six storey, 71-unit apartment building that JN Lafford Realty is planning to build at 131 Main Street.

Council approved zoning changes to make the building possible at a special meeting on July 19th. John Lafford had applied for a tax rebate under Sackville’s Economic Development Incentive Program on July 13th.

Town staff calculate that the tax rebate would be worth $1,185,920.10 over 10 years based on the estimated $16.5 million cost of the new building.

Over the same 10-year period, the town would receive an equal amount ($1,185,920.10) in property tax revenues.

Kieran Miller, the town’s manager of corporate services, told council the incentive program, adopted by Sackville Town Council in March 2020, is meant to encourage developers to build locally.

“These types of incentives are intended to act as a catalyst for increased development activities in the community, which will in turn help attract further businesses, residents and employment,” she said.

Incentive program working

“I love this,” said Michael Tower the only councillor to speak about the proposed tax rebate.

“It shows that the incentive program is working like it’s supposed to,” he added.

“We want development and this is definitely an encouragement to have a really beautiful building built.”

Tower acknowledged the 10-year delay in taxing the property at its full assessed value, but said the town would receive revenue from various permits as well as water and sewage payments.

“It helps us with residential and increases our overall development and may encourage others to come in,” he said.

How are incentives justified?

Mayor Black

Later during the public question period, Mayor Black was asked how the nearly $1.2 million tax subsidy could be justified given that the developer has been given approval to build on a prime location overlooking the Sackville Waterfowl Park at a time when rental vacancy rates are low and there are long waiting lists for apartments.

“How can you justify that kind of expenditure that may be totally unnecessary as an incentive when that money could go to non-profit housing or some other kind of scheme to help out with your rental problems in this town,” I asked.

“The incentive program is there and he (John Lafford) has applied for it,” Black replied.

When pressed further on how he would justify such a large expenditure, Black answered that council hasn’t approved it yet.

“So we haven’t justified it yet,” he said.

“That decision will come when it comes to a motion in council. Maybe there’ll be discussion then. Maybe people will have their own thoughts about whether they want to pass it or not.”

Previous misgivings

When Sackville Town Council was considering the incentive program on March 2, 2020, then-Councillor Bill Evans expressed his misgivings about it.

“The risk that we are exposing ourselves to is that a developer who would normally build a multi-million dollar project, [who] would do it anyway, is now going to pay less tax,” he said, adding, “What we’re hoping is that we’re going to get a developer [to] do something he or she wouldn’t otherwise do.”

Evans, who eventually voted in favour of the program, also noted that although the tax rebates would need council approval, he wondered if it would be legally possible to say no if a developer qualified for them under the new program.

Generous incentives

According to research conducted by Sackville residents Sharon Hicks and Percy Best, it appears that the Sackville economic incentive program is more generous than similar ones in nearby municipalities.

In Shediac, for example, the tax incentive is 1.5% of the full value of the property assessment, which would mean a residential property assessed at $16.5 million would receive a one-time tax rebate of $247,500.

Hicks and Best sent their findings in an open letter to Tantramar councillors on July 22nd basing their calculations on a building valued at $14 million.

To read their main findings, click here.

To read Kieran Miller’s report to council, which includes the Lafford application for the incentive program, click here.

This entry was posted in Town of Sackville, Town of Tantramar and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Lafford in line for $1.1 million tax break on new Sackville bldg.

  1. Dustin Chandler says:

    Providing incentives for economic development is common and should be encouraged. However, a 50% rebate is absurd and obviously NOT common when compared to what other close communities provide. It is clear that the previous council was inept at evaluating the proposed incentive program before they adopted it. It is also clear that the correct decision was made when Jamie Burke was relieved of his role as CAO since it was his “research” that resulted in the incentive program. Hicks and Best are correct in their findings and recommendations. If Town Council does not take this opportunity to realign the incentive program before approving the current application, I should hope we don’t hear about our property taxes increasing even $1 for the next 10 years – that sounds absurd too, right? But, here we are. And when our taxes do go up, the current council (not the active ones when taxes go up), should be reminded that they had the opportunity to fix this imbalanced incentive program – will we praise them for having done the right thing? Or will we be reminding them of their lack of foresight?

  2. Dustin Chandler says:

    And as a side note, there is no rush for council to approve this application. The only deadline in the program regarding application is that it be submitted by the developer prior to work starting. That criteria has been met and the developer can proceed with their plans anytime! There is plenty of time for council to take the right action without being rushed – unless they allow themselves to be pressured by the developer… :/

  3. S.A.Cunliffe says:

    Paying less taxes is something everyone should be cheering on… What’s wrong with some tax relief.. ? I see how Canadians are heavily taxed and no one should be advocating more taxation, its ludicrous to want to be taxed or to want others to be taxed. Zero pushback, as usual to the status quo. Why do the taxman’s job Bruce… this gig cannot pay much… are you seriously gonna get hot under the collar over someone not being taxed enough?

    • Christian Corbet says:

      Ridiculous comment.

    • Percy Best says:

      If 2,000 Town of Sackville taxpayers pay an additional $500 each then we will ‘almost’ have enough money to offset Lafford’s tax rebate over the next 10 years on this proposed building.

      Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but I believe that I already pay more town taxes than I should especially while living outside the ‘serviced’ area for the past 45 years. I do not need this additional financial burden.

      No other community that we know of has approved such a give away gift to a residential-only building developer. Our elected Town Councillors have to rethink this ill informed step that they have taken.

      They were misled, to put it mildly, and they certainly need to do much more research before they make such decisions in the future. We give them our tax dollars to make sure those dollars are wisely and properly used and they failed us this time around.
      John Lafford stated in Council Chambers that he has a waiting list of 250 names wanting to rent an apartment. He stated that if we didn’t believe him then all we had to do was to contact Wendy. He certainly does not need any million dollar financial incentive from the rest of us taxpayers to build. He has that and more with his huge ‘list’.

    • Elaine says:

      “Not being taxed enough”? That’s not the issue and I don’t understand how you missed the entire point of it.

      The point is – FAIR taxes. And this is in no way fair to the rest of residents in Tantramar who pay taxes. Or, as Dustin pointed out, should we not have to pay taxes over the next 10 years?

    • Jon says:

      If you’re opposed to Canadians paying more taxes, then you should oppose this “incentive”, because it will be paid for by higher taxes on those Tantramar residents who pay their fair share, taxes that will effectively go into the pocket of JN Lafford.

      If you’re a libertarian, then support allowing this project to sink or swim on its business case and economic merits, not rely on a government subsidy paid for by local tax payers.

  4. Tim Reiffenstein says:

    Town designs a policy to encourage development via tax incentives. Developer applies for it, as designed. Where is the issue? How many jobs will be directly created by this development? How many jobs in our currently dying downtown will be sustained by densification in the core? Is Lafford applying for this incentive prohibiting others from also applying? Does this happening in any way prohibit a non-profit from doing what they were going to do?

  5. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the People says:

    When money talks reason walks. Tantramar needs cash now to survive. Not down the road. Your little businesses need a break. How is it that councillor Phinney has so much uncommon sense . I just witnessed a rain bomb. Duck ponds became lakes. Disturbed salt marshes using modern catchment techniques swept away. Can you imagine a free running Tantramar river sweeping everything before it. The Bay of Fundy emptied and then fills with the same amount of water of five of the world’s largest rivers. Silly people who can’t learn from the Acadians.

  6. Jon says:

    Sackville’s demonstrating NB’s talent for paying wealthy business owners to do things they were planning to do anyway: build an oil refinery, cut crown lumber, or erect an apartment building.

    It’s tempting to think of it as corruption, but more likely it’s simply incompetence and insecurity. We elect people who are inept at management and negotiation, who fail to understand the value of what we have in this province, and are grovellingly thankful to anyone with money who offers to make themself more money at the expense of tax payers, because we’ve gotten into the habit of thinking we’re a third-world economy that can’t have development without government incentives, when in reality businesses are eager to invest here. We’re often too lacking in self-confidence to say no to businesses that bully us with threats to go elsewhere.

    If Lafford has a valid business case for this building being needed and viable, then he can build it without huge tax breaks. If he doesn’t, then he can go elsewhere. As he himself has said, there is a need for more housing. If he doesn’t build it, someone else will, and they can pay their fair share of tax like the rest of us.

    • S.A.Cunliffe says:

      “Pay their fair share of tax like the rest of us.”
      Why are you so pro-taxation for anyone Jon? I would love to know how and who decides what is fair? As libertarians are fond of saying “taxation is theft”
      Don’t act like a man of the people when you’re clearly a fan of the govt stealing from us … we get you’re not a fan of someone like Lafford providing housing that is needed here in this small town with limited options for folks.
      Perhaps you’re never done business in the real world and exist in that infamous academic bubble? Or funded “artists” bubble?

      • Jon says:

        Libertarianism isn’t my religion. I’d rather believe in democracy. The government is chosen by us, the people. Tax isn’t theft, it’s the people chipping in money for collective purposes: roads, healthcare, defence, education. The “taxation is theft” motto is the motto of parasites and conspiracy theorists who benefit from the community while resenting contributing to it. Who decides what’s fair taxation? The citizens we choose by election to make those choices.

        And no, despite you speculations, I’m not funded by the government.

  7. Wayne says:

    Everyone suspected that Amalgamation was a political scam to skim more tax dollars out of property owners under the guise of more local government. It is not fair to blame your newly elected councillors that found out that the wards were for election purposes only. The format is the same as the failed health and education boards. Using the committee of the whole format breaks convention in the democratic process. Council can not be blamed for being hoodwinked. ” We elect elect people who are inept in negotiations…….” No! However, councillors now know they are cheer leaders for the provincial government in power. If they were in committees where their research could be brought to the committee of the whole, where true deliberation could take place, it might have become the first new town centralized to work. The fact is their is no example that amalgamation works in Canada. For heavens sake citizens it didn’t work for the Germans, why be just as stupid. In my years on these boards I’ve seen one person resign, three people resign including the chair. No one in Fredericton batted an eyelash that that ‘policy governance’ doesn’t work. Before this costs tax payers any more the whole council needs to resign. But with salaries for a single councillor more than it took to run the office in Dorchester, I can’t see anyone having the guts. Don’t be a ratifying council for anyone. Too bad if it takes time to make good decisions, but that is better than drowning in mistakes. Step down NOW. One more thing when his worship has the microphone and has not made it clear that he is speaking for Andrew Black, call a point of order. Make him wear his statements made in public that are not council’s. The Mayor when he acts like one can object and overrule council, but he wears the decision not council.

    • S.A. Cunliffe says:

      Germans? Wayne? Really? Regionalization is a United Nations plan Wayne.. at least be honest if you are going to go there.. go all the way. Read Joan Veon’s two valuable books on this topic…. and the plan is called “communitarianism” as in the community rights trump the individual rights… are you someone who likes to read books? I could also recommend Niki Raapana and Nordica Friedrich’s thesis entitled “2020 Our Common Destiny: The Anti Communitarian Manifesto” from ACL Books Alaska.. I got the ebook from Niki years ago but the link for the PDF is available freely now – Niki passed away suddenly in 2022 at the age of 65. Joan Veon passed away from cancer in 2010 at the age of 60. I don’t hear people giving these women credit for their efforts to discuss in real terms what is taking place with “governance”… and apparently I’m the only one in a university town willing to discuss this ideology with others… why is that? I think Rima Azar has blogged about this ideology in the past… perhaps why they mobbed her. Ricardo Duchesne also highlights the ideology in his best-seller [third book] published before his mobbing by the University of New Brunswick.

      Is this topic that much of a stretch for people to grasp?
      Everytime someone hectors me about the importance of “community” I literally find myself cringing at their programming and where it goes.

  8. Mike says:

    Feels like Lafford will have run his numbers on the assumption that the advertised tax break will happen; how would you justify not approving something the council has been advertising?

    Should definitely consider dropping the break for future developments though. Unless there’s something I’m not aware of that raises development costs in Tantramar, developers should be pretty happy undertaking development even without the breaks. Demand is high, and some of the rents I’ve seen are extraordinary.

    • S.A. Cunliffe says:

      Who would not want to take advantage of a tax break in order to build and develop? Why is the incentive so upsetting to those who are seemingly concerned here about a shortage of housing options? Any guesses why there aren’t more Laffords coming to help to develop and create more housing here? Maybe the word has gotten out about the culture of “anti-development” that pervades the town dominated by an affluent crowd of university types who pride themselves on a culture of “being informed” and engaged in the process citizenry also known as “community organizers”?

  9. S.A. Cunliffe says:

    So “Jon” says: “The “taxation is theft” motto is the motto of parasites and conspiracy theorists who benefit from the community while resenting contributing to it.”

    You must be desperate now if you have to resort to insults at me … ha!
    Go ahead and advocate for more taxation which is in-line with the government you appear to at once battle with and align with [mental gymnastics much?]

    You don’t vote for taxation policy and you never will.. sorry to be the bringer of bad news… and I really hate to break into that bubble-like reality called “community” utopian mentality to possess. I don’t resent paying taxes because I vote with my money, always have… it speaks the loudest. I am on the record supporting less taxation and more housing development and growth in Sackville…. I am not on the record promoting more taxes. Got it? How do you grow the town with your mentality? You don’t. Fortunately Jon you’re not in any position of power we can safely gather.

    Maybe Jon you should run for Mayor next election if your ideas are so good see if others agree until then stop bashing on men such as John Lafford who is a hard-working contributor.

  10. Why is this spiel only about this one application for assistance through the Sackville Economic Incentive Program? Council has already approved the Economic Development Incentive Program Application from Quest Capital for a mixed- use development at 35 Main Street (PID 00965657). It would appear that after several years and a pandemic, developers have gained confidence in our community. Congratulations, hope we see the same type of initiatives happening in our “highway commercial” zones with a reconsideration of drive-thrus.

    • Les Hicks says:

      Hi Shawn, you were a member of Town Council when the Sackville Economic Incentive Program was adopted so you likely have a good understanding of it. If the calculations in the section of Sharon Hicks’ and Percy Best’s detailed report that dealt with the tax incentive program were correct, can you explain why town council voted for a program that was so out of line and generous compared with those of nearby communities? An approximately 1.2 million dollar tax break for one development/building could/should be viewed as corporate welfare at the expense of other taxpayers, something that is all too common – ie : the City of St. John’s tax breaks for Irving Oil ( As Jon mentioned, if there is a valid business case (ie : profit) for a certain development, if one developer doesn’t take on the project another one will. I believe that is the way that capitalism is supposed to work.

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