During this recent by-election, I really focused on what the city can actually do — within their mandated and legal role.
Zoning and land-use decisions are the big tools at the city's disposal. The outrageous land valuation increase detailed in this article is a direct result of the city's changes to permissible building height and scale — and it's what is driving a rush on speculation as well as replacement and displacement of actually affordable housing in the West End.
Until we've forced a conversation with the province about reforming BC Assessment, land value tax reform, and new ideas like progressive property taxation and split assessments: considerate and nuanced zoning is the ONLY real tool the city has at its disposal, so we need to do it right.
In the specific case of the First Baptist: public service and charitable work notwithstanding, they had been operating a commercial parking lot under a residential classification up until now. In fairness, for them to qualify for assessment averaging they should also pay retroactive commercial taxes on their for-pay parking lot. The other option available to them should be some form of tax deferral, that can be paid by the significant revenues expected for Ian Gillespie's Westbank luxury condo tower approved for that site.
Hard to guess why previous cases were voted against without seeing records — but the property tax assessment structure is pretty wonky, so until the various deficiencies are addressed at a provincial (read Vancouver Charter) level, the "law is the law".. there's a good explanatory graphic attached here (from the mentioned report). I would suggest the obvious route of appeal here should actually be with BC Assessment and the sudden change in tax class.
Though in this particular case if they have been getting a tax holiday with taxes applied on a residential class on what should have been a commercial classed operation, so unless First Baptist were willing to pay back all the taxes they had dodged on their commercial parking lot I would agree hands are tied as far as tax redress.