The King George School on Park Avenue – a stone’s throw from Newmarket Public Library – has been empty for years. The front steps are now beginning to crumble.
People in the immediate neighbourhood and elsewhere in Ward 5 are understandably curious about the owner’s plans for this fine building that is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
The owner, Chrisula Selfe, bought the property on 15 November 2011from the York Region District School Board for $1,275,000.
The tax classification of the old school is “commercial” and has an assessed value of $762,500. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations the annual property tax payable is $15,489 give or take a dollar or two. To most people this would be quite a bundle of cash to fork out every year just to keep the building empty.
Of course, the owners may qualify for a “vacancy rebate”.
I am told by my spies in the Town’s Finance Department: “If the property is vacant and the owner meets the criteria then the owner would be eligible to apply for a vacancy rebate for 30% of the taxes.” To qualify, the entire building must have been empty for 90 consecutive days. If the building is partially used then other criteria apply.
However, all this is a tad academic as we don’t know who has applied for - and been granted - a vacancy rebate. This information is confidential. But why? If people choose to keep a property empty and claim a vacancy rebate the rest of us pay more.
Earlier this year the local developer and self styled entrepreneur, Bob Forrest, disclosed he had been in touch with Chrisula Selfe’s husband, Neil Selfe, in the hope he (Forrest) might relocate some of his business tenants on Main Street South to the old school with the idea of making it some kind of “community hub”. (This was before he decided to cut his losses and put the Clock Tower and the adjacent properties up for sale.)
According to Forrest, the owners are in no rush to do anything with the school. But, intriguingly, Forrest says Neil Selfe - whom he dubs a “Bay Street financial type” - has some very set ideas about what he wants to do there.
Perhaps it is time for the owners to stir themselves and tell the voters of Ward 5 what they have in mind. They have had years to think about it.