As Ottawa city council gets set to vote on a controversial $2.9 million tax break for a Porsche dealership in Vanier, some residents are voicing opposition to the move.
Council meets Wednesday and is expected to approve the tax break. The proposal received unanimous support from the finance committee last week.
Mark Motors are the first applicants to a two-year-old City of Ottawa program, known as the Community Improvement Program (CIP), which is aimed at revitalizing Vanier's main street.
The luxury car dealership company is looking to build a flagship Porsche store at Montreal Road and St. Laurent Boulevard — currently the site of both an Audi and Alfa Romeo/Maserati dealership.
City staff project the site's property taxes would spike to $355,000 annually, or 14 times more than the owners currently pay. In exchange for upgrading the property, the city would pay a grant worth up to 75 per cent of the difference over 10 years.
Vanier residents, however, say they're unconvinced the grant is needed and question whether the program's criteria are being applied properly. Dozens gathered Tuesday to protest outside the Audi dealership in a final effort to convince councillors to vote against the proposal before Wednesday's meeting.
Dozens of Vanier residents have parked themselves in front of the Audi dealership on Montreal road. They’re protesting the nearly $3M tax break approved by the finance company for a Porsche dealership to be built here. pic.twitter.com/FUY6iU1ZfC
"Vanier is a welcoming community. It's a community for everyone. This isn't a community of millionaires. It's a community of average people who want to see our main street filled with businesses that we would use in our daily lives," said Laura Shantz.
"We don't want to see cash for tax breaks for millionaire dealership owners when what we really need is small community businesses."
Protesters said they believe the Mrak family, who own Mark Motors, would be able to afford to pay the additional $2.7 million in property taxes. They said that money could go toward social services and affordable housing in the neighbourhood.
"There's lots of businesses on this street that have been hurt by the pandemic ... I would want to see them grow and them thrive before a place that I will never go," said Lauren Seward-Monday, who is also a member of Ottawa ACORN, a community advocacy non-profit.
Residents say application, city report unclear
In a statement released earlier this week, the Vanier Community Association (VCA) also raised concerns about the application submitted to the city.
While it initially supported the CIP, the association said the application for the Porsche dealership wasn't clear about whether or not the project could proceed without the grant. VCA also said the city's report did "not provide a clear socio-economic analysis."
"We are keen to see Montreal Road become a thriving and inclusive hub of our community" but that support should be given to "small businesses, full-time jobs with benefits for Vanierois," as well as affordable housing, public art, green initiatives and collective spaces, the statement said.
Mayor Jim Watson has previously said building the Porsche dealership would put the city $1 million ahead. He said that money could fund "greater social services, more social housing, greater infrastructure."