Making the case for development charges

North Dundas Director of Planning, Calvin Pol, makes the case for development charges Friday, May 3, 2016 during the SD&G Summit in Alexandria, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

ALEXANDRIA – A North Dundas planner says municipalities need not be swayed by the fear developers won’t build if they have development charges.

But Calvin Pol, Director of Planning, Building and By-Law, says they should start small and be “reasonable.”

Bringing municipal leaders up to speed Friday at the SD&G Summit, he said only one township – South Stormont – has never had the fee for development.

North Dundas has had its development charges law in place since the 1998 amalgamation and is projected to bring in $700,000 over a five year period.

“We pulled out a quarter million dollars last year (from the development charges account to add) a four bay addition on the public works garage…and (to buy) mowers,” Pol said.

Pol explained that the money helps to pay for “the big stuff right off the bat” to meet growth.

For example, that could be upgrading or widening sidewalks (not replacing) and upgrading snowplows from a single to a tandem axle truck.

Pol suggested that budgeting for taxes based on growth could leave municipalities struggling.

Based on Statistics Canada data, which are used for calculating funding, North Dundas only grew by 130 people from 2006-2011. But the actual housing starts were up by 222 during the same time.

He suggested not having those fees leads to going into the pocket of the taxpayer.

Housing starts data from North Dundas shows that development charges have not deterred building as the township has averaged 42 housing starts per year.

“I always stress to municipalities, be reasonable when starting these things,” Pol said. “Take baby steps…start at $1,000.” He also suggests economies of scale for non-residential development.

Pol said considerations also need to take into account for people rebuilding after a fire and the charges should be indexed for inflation.

North Dundas will be doing a development charges study soon as their law is set to expire in 2018.

North Dundas Mayor Eric Duncan said residents paying into a water system for years, for example, have new construction “jumping in with a hookup fee” but have not been paying into the system. When the system is at capacity and a multi-million dollar expansion is needed, the development charges would cover that. The mayor said it’s a form of “buying shares” into the system.

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