THIS IS INTERESTING. ANYONE ELSE READING THE OUTLANDER SERIES REGARDING LIFE IN THE 1700’S. I’m enjoying the read.
Normally, a brand-new seaside home on the outskirts of Antigonish, N.S. could easily fetch as much as $400,000.
But after homeowner Mike MacDonald stumbled upon a Mi’kmaq axe on the two-acre property, he was quickly able to convince the Province of Nova Scotia that his new home was now effectively worthless.
“Such a property would be considered very valuable under normal circumstances,” reads a decision by a Nova Scotia appeal tribunal.
But with the artifacts throwing the property’s future into limbo, “the value will be set at $1 until the future use of the Mi’kmaq artifacts is determined,” it read.
The rock-bottom assessment — which MacDonald only obtained after several appeals — frees him from paying any property taxes on the beachfront land.
And for Nova Scotia’s official property tax assessor, the dramatic devaluation is not sitting right.
“The Citadel Hill site (in downtown Halifax) has native artifacts under it; does that mean it’s also worthless?” said Kathy Gillis, CEO of the non-profit Property Value Services Corporation, which is leading a legal challenge to restore the assessed value to $253,500.
Nova Scotia — like much of Canada — is built atop land laden with First Nations artifacts and graves. If MacDonald’s claim isn’t taken to court, she said, “the same thing is just going to happen and happen and happen.”
The PVSC refused to ascribe a motive to MacDonald’s appeals for lower assessments, but noted in a statement that “in general, Nova Scotia property owners do not seek to have their property value reduced to one dollar.”
An initial study by the PVSC put MacDonald’s home at $365,000, although that number was later dropped to $253,000.
Mi’kmaq artifacts had indeed been found, assessors noted, but after a quick archeological dig, all it had done was force MacDonald to move the location of a well.
The nearby Paq’tnkek First Nation, notably, had no qualms with MacDonald continuing construction, and he finished a shed, a home and a septic system once the artifacts had been pulled out.
“No further interference with the property is planned at this time,” read assessment documents.
But MacDonald took his case to the Nova Scotia Assessment Appeal Tribunal, arguing successfully that it was only a matter of time before his house became the subject of a Mi’kmaq land claim.
“The First Nations’ strong interest in and claims on my property raise serious questions about my ability to guarantee clear title to anyone interested in purchasing it,” wrote MacDonald in a report published this month defending the $1 valuation.
MacDonald provided a letter from the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq confirming that the house was in an area where they would be conducting “future Land Claims research.”
He also commissioned an independent appraisal that determined that “additional discoveries (of artifacts) could be significantly detrimental should First Nations decide to pursue further.”
The house, located at Lot 3A-1 Seabright Road, is on an outcrop of land at the north end of Antigonish Harbour.
It was on this territory, MacDonald argues, that in 1783 the “Antigonish Indians” were given license by British authorities to live “undisturbed … with liberty of hunting and fishing.”
Neither MacDonald or the Paq’tnkek First Nation could be reached.
The discovery of First Nations artifacts or burial sites have indeed brought developments to a screeching halt in the past.
Last year, an Abbotsford, B.C. developer claimed his plans for a farm equipment mall were scuttled due to municipal concerns about the property being a site of mass graves.
In 2012, a condo project in South Vancouver was halted due to Musqueam protests that it was being built atop a recognized ancient village site and burial ground.
In MacDonald’s case, though, the Property Value Services Corporation is arguing that it’s much harder to argue that a property is worthless when the house is “inhabited and used by the property owner.”
In September, the issue is set to be heard before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.