By Robert Frank and Kevin Woodhouse
About five hectares of vacant land surrounding the Ste. Anne de Bellevue veterans hospital is intended to be ceded to the city for development, both candidates for mayor have told The Suburban.
Paola Hawa and Paul Chablo said in separate interviews that the transfer is intended to make up for about $2.7 million in revenue that the city will lose, once the federal government turns over the keys to the hospital to the Quebec government.
“Government institutions like hospitals are exempt from property taxes,” explained Hawa. “Instead, they make a payment in lieu of taxes to compensate the city for the municipal services that they receive.”
“The provincial government pays much less than the federal government does, hence the impending shortfall,” she said.
“There is nothing in writing yet,” Hawa clarified, “but there has been verbal agreement.”
She said that there will be provisos as to what the land can be used for.
“It has to be for something health-related that would complement the services offered by the hospital,” Hawa continued. “Ste. Anne de Bellevue will have an opportunity to become a centre of excellence in chronic and geriatric care for Montreal.”
“The federal government was more generous than the provincial government as the federal government pays 100 cents on the dollar while the province only pays half of that,” Quebec MNA Geoffrey Kelley told The Suburban.
With the hospital and its grounds taking up about 57 acres of land area, the yearly tax bill is about $4 million and without a deal from the province, Ste. Anne de Bellevue taxpayers will be on the hook more than half.
“The city is hoping to have the provincial government cede some of the large property for development,” Kelley confirmed, “to offset the extra tax as the city could acquire more revenue.”
Keley acknowledged that the transfer will be tricky, as there are many collective agreements to deal with, as well as whether “the hospital will become part of the West Island hospital system.”
He said that it is highly likely that the federal government will rent out 200 beds to continue care for the veterans with the remaining 100 beds that “could be used for the public sector as currently, there is one entire floor that is empty.”
And while the “tax fallout will be a major issue, the federal government wants to get rid of the hospital” and transfer the responsibility towards the province.
“The land will go from being zoned for a federal institution to residential,” added Hawa’s opponent, Paul Chablo, “which is how we will make up the difference in taxes.”
“What we’d like to see on that land is the creation of residences for seniors: autonomous, semi-autonomous and dependent. “A lot of seniors love Ste. Anne de Bellevue and want to remain here. [The land] is already near the commuter train station.”
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