In a tax deferral deal with the city dating back to 1966, the Idylwylde Golf & Country Club does not have to pay their full share of property taxes each year.
It’s unclear how much the golf course owes the city in deferred tax payments, if anything, because its leadership won’t say. The city won’t say either, citing “privacy reasons.”
Idylwylde interim general manager David Bower deferred comment to the club’s board chair Mike Andrighetti, who declined to share details and asked Sudbury.com to respect their privacy.
“Our club is a private organization and discussing financials or like-information publicly is not something the club will be doing,” he said by emailed correspondence. “Hope you can respect this structure and process the same way we expect shareholders and members to respect the privacy.”
Passed on June 14, 1966, by what was then the City of Sudbury, Bylaw 66-86 fixes the golf course property at an assessed value of $71,490 ($29,2200 land and $42,380 building), which general, school and special purpose property tax levies are applied against.
Although fixed at $71,490, the golf course has followed the same reassessment process as any other property during subsequent years, and in 2016 (the latest reassessment year) was given an assessed value of $4.08 million.
Each year, the golf course has been billed according to the property’s full assessed value, but has remained eligible to pay a lesser amount based on the 1966 assessment. The difference between these two amounts is debited against the golf course as a deferred tax payment.
The City of Greater Sudbury’s property tax calculator indicates the full amount Idylwylde Golf & Country Club was billed for education and municipal taxes last year, based on their $4.08 million assessment, would have been $86,730.
The fixed minimum payment has changed in the years since the original agreement because of changes to the Assessment Act and recalculations at each reassessment cycle to ensure the minimum payment is based on the original lands in the agreement.*
Bylaw 66-86 has been in place for 57 years, during which time the gap between Idylwylde’s minimum payments and total tax bill has grown. Depending on whether they’ve taken advantage of the bylaw, it’s possible the golf course owes the city millions in taxes, or nothing — neither the city nor the club will say.
“As far as I know, we have no other arrangements like this in our municipality, but they're not uncommon,” city Corporate Services general manager Kevin Fowke told Sudbury.com.
“In southern Ontario, for example, if you look up the City of Toronto, you may see dozens if not 100 or more of these types of arrangements. ... It's an older tax development incentive scheme, but it's a legitimate one.”
Fowke said the tax deal is similar to some of the city’s current Community Improvement Plans and Incentive Programs, whose intent is to incentivize strategic development.
The total amount the golf course owes the city in deferred tax payments, if any, will be collected in the end, according to the bylaw. Included in the amount owed will be a four-per-cent interest rate applied against the total deferred amount each year.
The total amount owed will be collected as soon as the agreement ends. It may be terminated effective Dec. 31 of any year, “upon the club giving six months’ prior notice.” The agreement also ends on the day the lands cease to be used as a golf course.
Upon termination, the city takes ownership of the lands, unless the deferred amount is paid.
Idylwylde Golf & Country Club is located on the north shore of Nepahwin Lake. At $3,902 for a men’s membership (plus a minimum $750 for food and beverage), the private golf course is the city’s most expensive. Idylwylde was formed in 1922 and grew to 18 holes by 1966.
Sudbury.com looked into Idylwylde’s tax agreement with the city after receiving an anonymous tip from a reader expressing concern about its fairness.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.
*Editor's note: This line has been added to the story upon receiving additional clarification from Fowke.