BRUCE COUNTY – County Coun. Don Murray, Huron-Kinloss, expressed a general concern about Bruce County imposing development charges: municipalities like his, on the border with a county (such as Huron) that has no development charges, will be at a substantial disadvantage.

The response, by Edward Henley, director of corporate services for the county, was that “there are a lot of reasons why someone would want to build in one place or another.” Those reasons include availability of land, as well as the desirability of the community. Saugeen Shores, which has one of the highest municipal development charges in the area, is also one of the fastest-growing communities.

The public meeting on Sept. 7 included ample opportunity for county staff and consultant Daryl Abbs from Watson and Associates to provide information, for members of the public to comment and ask specific questions, for municipal building officials from lower-tier municipalities to express concerns, and for council members to discuss the proposed development charges.

Henley opened by providing background information on why the county is considering development charges, and something of the history of the county’s progress toward implementing them. 

Said Henley, development charges (DCs) are one way to acquire funds to pay for growth-related infrastructure. The other way is to have current taxpayers fund growth. 

“We don’t have sufficient funds for infrastructure and have had to impose tax increases,” he said. 

The recurring 2.1 per cent annual capital infrastructure renewal levy for the next 15 years is for existing infrastructure only, not new.

“DCs are an alternate revenue source mitigating having to raise property taxes,” Henley stated in his report to council. He used a series of charts to explain that the impact of not having development charges will involve deferring repair and replacement of infrastructure, removal of infrastructure, increased borrowing and increased taxes.

One chart had a modest but significant band showing how DCs can reduce the burden of new growth on current taxpayers.

Said Henley in the report, approximately $3.2 million per year (plus inflation) needs to be collected to pay for new or expanded county infrastructure due to growth. Currently, one per cent of the county tax levy increase amounts to $621,184, meaning a 5.15 per cent levy increase if there are no DCs, even without considering inflation. The alternatives, without DCs, to reduce the tax increase is to reduce services as the population increases (or increase borrowing).

“DCs can reduce tax increases due to growth,” said Henley, and showed a chart with almost $44 million over 10-14 years in recoverable costs.

That $44 million would help pay for new paramedic stations in Port Elgin and Holyrood; roads and bridges including in Paisley and Walkerton; road roundabouts, traffic signals, bike lanes, intersection improvements and realignments; trail expansion; long-term care expansion; and additional childcare and early years program space. 

To date, a number of meetings have been held with county staff. There have been council workshops, and presentations to and consultations with local municipalities. A stakeholder meeting was held July 5 of this year.

Among the concerns discussed at the July 5 meeting was the possibility of development charges in high-growth areas along the shoreline, not low-growth areas in the interior; how DCs would benefit an area like Northern Bruce Peninsula with a low number of roads and high seasonal residential growth; how DCs would impact applications already in progress or approved; and how the additional cost to development would apply to attainable (and/or accessible) housing. One person noted DCs seem to “insulate” the older and more established generation who put higher pressures on long-term care and paramedic services. Another suggested bringing DCs in slowly, over a number of years.

The presentation by Abbs (Watson and Associates) focused on what costs could be recovered through DCs, and how recent provincial legislation has affected those items.

Housing services had been part of the list, but have been cancelled due to Bill 23.

Abbs touched on DC exemptions being proposed, common ones being places of worship and hospitals.

The question of affordable and/or attainable units was discussed; Abbs said an affordable rental unit has been defined by the province as having rent at no more than 80 per cent of the average market rent; an affordable owned unit is no more than 80 per cent of the average purchase price. Attainable has not been defined yet.

Services being included in DCs countywide are services related to a highway; parks, recreational services and trails; long-term care; childcare and early years programs; and ambulance services.

Proposed DCs for residential units begin at the high end of $7,665 for single and semi-detached, down to $3,167 for special care/special dwelling units. The non-residential amount would be $2.94 per square foot of floor area. The first year would see a phase-in of 80 per cent of the calculated charges.

This would put Bruce County in the middle when compared to nearby counties. Simcoe County’s DC for a single and semi-detached residential unit is $13,052. Grey County is $9,183 and Wellington $8,827. Oxford is $4,940, Dufferin is $3,218 and Huron has no DCs.

Commercial/industrial is much the same, with Bruce sitting at $2.94, well below Simcoe at $5.10, and above Grey at $0.84. Some counties like Oxford have a DC for commercial but not for industrial. Henley noted Grey calculates its non-residential rate differently.

There were a number of members of the public in the council chambers, with others attending the public meeting remotely.

Alex Bogdanovich (developer of Crimson Oaks Valley in Huron-Kinloss) asked a number of questions, mostly involving timing – whether they’d be expected to pay DCs for houses already built.

There were also questions from developers with properties in Walkerton and Kincardine, and the chief building officials from South Bruce and Brockton.

Henley noted the county would be providing training for the lower-tier municipalities not currently collecting DCs.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores, stressed the importance of “ensuring the timing is aligned” between county and lower tier municipality in collecting DCs. “I’d like there to be alignment.”

County Coun. Kenneth Craig, Kincardine, agreed. “Harmonization is crucial,” he said, adding that he was “on board with this” since DCs are needed for the “financial well-being” of the county.

Warden Chris Peabody, Brockton, said the county “can’t wait for the province” to define non-statutory exemptions, since a lot of rental blocks are needed. 

He also expressed concern about the DCs – or lack thereof – in Grey and Huron. 

“We’re in competition with Wingham, Goderich, Hanover and Owen Sound,” he said.

Charbonneau concurred with the need to be competitive, to make the most of “opportunities in the nuclear sector.” He spoke of the possibility of reimbursing DCs through the Community Improvement Plan.

Next steps will be additional presentations to local municipalities. County council will consider recommendations at the Sept. 21 meeting, and the bylaw will come before council for consideration on Oct. 5. 

By Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Sep 15, 2023 at 07:55

This item reprinted with permission from   The Herald-Times   Walkerton, Ontario
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