Cornwall’s development charge tune changing

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The long debated issue of charging developers to build in Cornwall appears to be moving forward, with some naysayers in the past having a change of heart.

Council heard about development charges tonight (Monday) in a presentation from economist C.N. Watson and Associates.

The fees are meant to cover wear and tear on infrastructure from development and would be calculated based on type and location in the city.

The consultant’s report anticipates the city’s capital needs will be around $109 million over the next decade (2017-2026).

Based on different eligibility criteria, the city would reap about 11 per cent through development charges, or roughly $12 million.

The Watson study is based on various sources of data, including Statistics Canada. C.N. Watson and Associates estimates the city will grow by 1,500 people in the next 10 years (48,139 by 2027).

That would require an extra 1,353 living units over that time.

Based on their calculations, the cost would be $5,137 for a contractor to build a single family home in an urban area of Cornwall. For non-residential development, it would be $2.65 per square foot.

If development charges go ahead, the actual law has a five year shelf life, meaning the city has to review its charges every five years. It would also give the city an option of phasing in fees for development over a five year period.

What has Cornwall missed out on by not charging development fees?

C.N. Watson believes it’s about $840,000 a year or $4.2 million that could have been potentially collected between 2011-2015. That’s about 1.3 per cent of the yearly taxes collected.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald asked if any municipalities had stopped development charges after putting them in place.

Coun. Denis Carr questioned whether development charges would hinder building.

“It’s a big question,” said Mark Boileau, general manager of planning. Using the former Target building as a example, Boileau said the city would have collected $4 million in development charges.

“Would that project have come to Cornwall with a rate like that? Personally, I would say yes,” Boileau said.

Once against development charges, Coun. Carr suggested his stance may have changed.

Coun. Bernadette Clement remarked that council was having a “radically different conversation” than it had in the past.

Clement also learned the development charges can be imposed by area, in order to encourage development in certain areas (like exempting the downtown, for instance).

“It’s a long time coming but the numbers really hit home,” Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy said. “Growth is not free, growth costs money.”

Council has formally received the report, which will now go through a feedback process with various stakeholders and the public, including a public meeting.