March 23, 2023

The founder of Tim Hortons spent up to $10 million a year to support his luxury resort in Nova Scotia

Fox Harb’r Resort in Cumberland County is in a dispute with Nova Scotia’s tax assessors. (CBC – image credit)

How do you value a property when nothing else like it exists?

That’s the crux of the dispute between Northumberland Strait’s Fox Harb’r Resort and Nova Scotia’s tax assessors.

The owners say the $19.9 million assessment used in property taxes is far too high given the resort’s massive losses, which run into the millions each year.

“The assessment does not properly reflect the market value as of the specified date,” Fox Harb’r Development Ltd. said in its latest complaint, filed this week with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The resort is not happy with the 2020 assessment cut last month by the Nova Scotia Assessment Appeal Tribunal.

The court dropped the value from $21 million to $19.9 million, but still well above the $5.7 million Fox Harb’r Development said it was worth.

Fox Harb is a word for luxury

The 401-acre gated resort has become Nova Scotia’s byword for luxury since opening in 2000.

The stunning facility features a championship golf course, marina, private jetty and hangar, vineyard, stables and pheasant preserve.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press

Ron Joyce, the billionaire founder of the Tim Hortons coffee and fast food chain, developed a resort near his hometown of Tatamagouche.

Tax dispute documents reveal that until his death in 2019, Joyce guaranteed operating losses that peaked at $8 million to $10 million a year.

His heirs’ managers reduced the losses to $1.5 million to $2 million a year, according to evidence presented in the complaint.

To achieve profitability, they are building new homes and plan to build 48 apartments.

A community asset, not an investment

Fox Harb’r says Joyce built the resort as a legacy and community asset rather than an investment.

Jeff Cuzner, director of commercial property taxes at real estate services firm CBRE, filed a brief in favor of Fox Harb’s appeal, arguing that no potential buyer would “ever consider repeating the subject based on its location and taxation.”



“The location of the site is worse…Fox Harb’r is located in a remote area with no population center or amenities,” Cuzner wrote.

The owners argued that because the resort has never made a profit and relies on annual owner subsidies to operate, “there is no way to accurately estimate its value based on its income.”

They said a fairer valuation should be based on the sale value of eight other golf properties with lodging in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Fox Harb’r said the most comparable properties were Glen Arbor in Halifax, valued at $91,705 per hole, and Crowbush in Prince Edward Island at $158,000 per hole. Using this metric, Fox Harb’s golf courses and amenities are worth $125,000 per hole, or $3.375 million. It valued Founder’s Lodge at $1.6 million.

Fox Harb’r “unmatched” in NS

The approach was rejected by the Property Valuation Services Corporation (PVSC) Director of Valuation.

The Crown Corporation, which sets property valuations in Nova Scotia, said no other golf property compares to Fox Harb’r.

“In addition to offering accommodations unmatched by any other golf resort in the province, Fox Harb’r includes numerous amenities that no other property can offer,” PVSC attorney Robert Andrews said in the court complaint.



It evaluated the resort as a whole, but used different methods – accommodation was evaluated based on revenue, while golf course costs were evaluated based on cost, cottages and properties were evaluated by direct comparison.

In his petition to the utility and appraisal board, Fox Harb’r said that “the values ​​set for all parts of the appraisal are too high and inconsistent with both market value and the provisions of the Appraisal Act.”

“The appraisal was wrongly weighted towards an income approach and did not take into account a direct benchmark which would be an essential basis for arriving at a correct value. The appraisal used the premise that the property was unique and gave it more weight than the true market value on which it should have been based,” Fox Harbin attorney Michael L Ryan said in a complaint filed Nov. 1 with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

Important to Cumberland County

Property Valuation Services declined to comment and said it was defending the appraisal before regulators.

Fox Harb’r did not respond to a request for comment.

In September 2022 View In a podcast interview with Huddle, a maritime business publication, Fox Harb President Kevin Toth declined to discuss the amount of taxes paid to the local municipality, saying “we have a little dispute with them right now.”



He said the resort spends $7 million annually on goods and services in Nova Scotia and has invested more than $125 million in resort development. It uses its own water and sewer network and maintains the property’s roads.

Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott said the resort draws people from all over the world to the area “for different reasons, some for property, some for services, some for golf.”

“Fox Harb’r is a big part of Cumberland County with the assessed value of the property, what it means for the municipality to be taxed,” he said. “It’s very important to Cumberland County.”


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