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N.B. cancels rental hikes on Crown land

The New Brunswick government has frozen its rental rates for Crown land while it commissions an independent study of its public land’s market value.

The provincial natural resources department said in a release Tuesday that it heard from “hundreds” of Crown leaseholders after it recently announced an increase in Crown land rents this year and subsequent increases in each of the next two years.

“A common issue raised by many of the leaseholders was the market value placed on Crown land in remote areas,” the department said.

“Our government believes New Brunswickers should receive a reasonable rate of return from those leasing Crown land,” Natural Resources Minister Wally Stiles said in the release.

“We also recognize, however, that determining market values for land in remote areas is difficult and subject to debate, so we have decided to conduct an independent assessment.”

Thus the province has cancelled the rent increases planned for 2010-11 and 2011-12 for its camp lot, maple sugary and other leaseholders. The decision is expected to save 3,200 leaseholders $573,422 in 2010-11 and $981,855 annually starting in 2011-12.

Among those affected are 2,718 camp lot leaseholders plus 508 others, including those operating maple sugaries on Crown land.

Letters will go out to all leaseholders informing them of the independent study and the cancellation of the rent hikes, said Stiles, a maple sugar producer for the past 35 years.

The department plans to start the selection process immediately to find an independent third party to conduct the study, which it plans to have completed by next summer, Stiles said.

“The information gathered in this independent study will be of great value in establishing rents for Crown land that are fair and reasonable for the owners and the users of public land,” he said.

“Once this study has been completed, we will review the findings to determine whether the rental rates are at the appropriate level or should be adjusted.”

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