Bruce County holds workshop on development charges

·3 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – The county’s corporate services committee took a closer look at development charges on Feb. 25 during a workshop called “development charges 101.”

While some of the lower tier municipalities have development charges – Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce Peninsula, Kincardine and Saugeen Shores – this will be the first time for the county.

The concept of development charges is based on the idea that growth should pay for growth – the alternative is having existing taxpayers carry the burden of growth. Development charges may be implemented to fund things that are outside what’s considered normal subdivision infrastructure, for example, roads, watermains and sewers.

The idea is to keep the overall impact of growth to a minimum on existing taxpayers, said the consultants. However, existing taxpayers could pay part of the cost of growth, for example, if an arena were expanding from one ice pad to two.

The general focus of the workshop was on what development charges can fund, and what they can’t.

In September, a report on development charges was presented to the committee. A background study was included in the 2021-2025 budget and forecast. The consulting firm of Watson and Associates Economists Ltd. was retained to lead the study. This is the same firm that is conducting the growth study for the county, meaning consistent growth data would be used.

The consultants will be presenting information on development charges at a number of meetings for council and members of the public.

The first stakeholder meeting was held the afternoon of the presentation to the executive committee. A second such meeting is planned for June 10. A second council workshop is planned for July 8, time to be determined, followed by a third stakeholder meeting.

A public meeting is planned for Sept. 9, 10 a.m. to noon, with the development charges bylaw to be passed at a later date.

The consultants explained development charges are a fee charged by a municipality to recover growth costs.

Growth costs are recovered to build new infrastructure supporting growth, pay down existing debt for past growth works, and avoid taxpayers paying for costs that serve growth. They don’t pay for operating costs or infrastructure renewal. That is paid for by taxes from new homes and businesses (assessment growth).

As explained in the report to council, among the things development charges could fund are new buildings, expanded buildings and converted buildings. These are split into different classifications – residential, commercial, institutional and industrial.

There is also an opportunity to make special fees or exemptions for some of the classifications or sub-classifications such as seniors special care facilities, affordable housing or wind turbines.

The consultants said many municipalities exempt places of worship, although this may include only the part of the building actually used for worship and not halls rented out to the public.

Other common exemptions include farm buildings, industrial development, downtowns, brownfields, hospitals and affordable housing. The consultants stressed it’s up to the county what they choose to exempt.

One of the key topics covered in the workshop was legislation governing development charges, including new regulations and emerging issues.

The county intends to implement development charges in a graduated manner, over time updating them. The development charges in the county will take into consideration a number of factors such as the business climate including housing demand, the pressures on the county and residents which may be leading to imbalances that can be addressed, in part, by development charges, and the development charges imposed by neighbouring counties.

Committee members asked a number of questions including how bridges fit in to the system, whether its better to phase in the charges or implement them all at once, and exemptions.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, explained his municipality doesn’t have a lot of exemptions, having chosen to keep development charges as simple as possible. What they do have are “grants targeting certain types of development.”

County Coun. Anne Eadie, mayor of Kincardine, said, “I look forward to the next steps.”

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times