Bruce County receives public input at meeting on development charges

·8 min read

BRUCE COUNTY – The county is considering a development charge of $6,400 for a detached or semidetached residential unit, and $1.88 per square foot for industrial development.

The county’s corporate services committee hosted the statutory public meeting on proposed development charges on Oct. 28.

Edward Henley, director of corporate services, introduced the presentation by consultant Gary Scandian of Watson and Associates Economists Ltd.

Henley opened by explaining the basic concept of development charges (DCs), that growth should pay for growth.

The county began the process of looking at DCs in September 2020. After a series of stakeholder meetings and council workshops, the process is entering its final phase. Present plans call for a staff report on Nov. 4, with the proposed bylaw put forward to council on Dec. 2. There was no decision made at the Oct. 28 meeting, nor was there supposed to be. The intent was to receive input, said Scandian.

In his presentation, Scandian described the purpose of DCs – to recover the costs of growth-related infrastructure. He said DCs are not new.

“They’ve been around since the 1950s – over 65 years,” said Scandian.

They were originally referred to as the “lot levy” under the under the Planning Act, imposed “when you created a new lot.” The Development Charges Act was passed in 1989 and has had revisions made since then.

Legislation that has amended DCs includes the following:

Bill 108 (More Homes, More Choices Act, 2019) allows payments to be made over a period of time – six years for rental, and 21 years for non-profit housing developments; Bill 138; Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020) – the mandatory 10 per cent deduction has been removed; and Bill 213 (Better for People, Smarter for Business Act 2020).

The consultant explained that there are two categories of growth-related costs. Highly localized costs such as those involved in a subdivision are the responsibility of the developer. He said municipalities are empowered to impose charges under the Development Charges Act for the broader costs – for example, county roads, public works, long-term care, water and wastewater.

To calculate DCs, the amount, type and location of growth must be identified. The servicing needs to accommodate growth are also identified, as are the capital costs to meet those needs. Deducted are grants, subsidies and benefits to existing development. The net cost is divided between residential and non-residential development, calculated according to low, medium and high-density residential growth, and per square foot for non-residential.

Scandian spoke about certain mandatory exemptions – DCs cannot be imposed on another government entity, a school board or university, for example. Industrial building expansions under 50 per cent are also exempt from DCs. A recent change allows two apartments to be added to a detached home, without DCs, as long as the size of the house doesn’t double. One additional unit is allowed without a DC in medium and high-density buildings.

There are also discretionary exemptions.

“Municipalities may fine-tune what’s important to them,” said the consultant.

They may exempt churches, or industrial development, for example, or phase in charges over time.

He outlined proposed discretionary exemptions – churches and cemeteries, hospitals, non-resident agricultural accessory buildings, charitable non-profit organizations, and temporary use buildings.

Scandian said that while it’s not mandatory to have DCs, “as you grow, if you don’t have DCs to assist in funding it, 100 per cent goes onto property taxes – existing taxpayers subsidize new growth.”

He said that over the next 10 years, the population in the county is expected to grow by about 11,500 people or 5,080 residential units. Over a 16-year period, that will increase to almost 17,000 people or 7,500 residential units. Non-residential growth is expected to amount to 2,530,000 square feet over the next 10 years and 3,660,000 square feet over 16 years. The DC bylaw, if passed, would be for five years.

Services being included for DCs are those related to a highway, parks and recreation (trails), library, ambulance, long-term care, child care, social housing and growth studies related to these services.

Not included at this time, although they’re eligible, are emergency preparedness, public health, transit and Provincial Offences Act.

The proposed development charge for a detached and semidetached residential unit would be just under $6,400; for non-residential, it would be $1.88 per square foot.

When compared to other nearby counties, Bruce County would be about the middle for proposed residential DCs. Simcoe County is highest, at almost $10,000 per detached home.

Simcoe County also has the highest non-residential rate of $3.50 per square foot, with Bruce County’s proposed amount the second-highest. The consultant said that would be by a very small margin. Grey County has no DCs for non-residential.

During the question period that followed, County Coun. Chris Peabody, Brockton, referred to the letter by Matt Farrell, building and planning manager for Huron-Kinloss, saying his key concern is whether non-residential DCs would apply to farm buildings.

The answer was that the county is looking to exempt farm buildings. However, should a house be built on a farm lot, DCs would apply.

County Coun. Mitch Twolan, Huron-Kinloss, noted DC information was listed only for the Ripley area but not the Lucknow, Lakeshore and rural areas.

A question from the public referred to lengthy land tribunal appeals in Northern Bruce Peninsula – would exemptions apply to these properties?

The consultant answered that right now, the proposed bylaw has no provision for that, but it’s something that could be considered.

County Coun. Milt McIver, Northern Bruce Peninsula, said he is familiar with the properties in question, and would be in favour of an exemption.

Farrell asked about “diversified uses” in agricultural buildings – would they be exempt?

The consultant said it would be up to council whether to exempt certain commercial or manufacturing operations on farms.

Farrell also asked about collection of DCs.

“It would be great from our standpoint if the county would handle that. It would make our lives a lot easier,” said Farrell.

The consultant answered that normally, the local municipal collects charges. If there are differences in when charges are collected, that would have to be sorted out with the lower tier.

“The upper tier makes the determination (about whether DCs apply); the lower tier collects the DCs,” said Scandian.

There was some discussion on affordable housing. While Penetangore House has already been completed, it’s being used as a point of reference for other developments of its kind. A future development would have half the cost of the loan payment come from DCs and the other half from rental income. It’s an example of how DCs help fund new growth.

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, Saugeen Shores, said that was an important point.

“It will significantly accelerate the rate at which we can construct subsidized housing in the county; we can look at adding even more projects. More folks would like to see more affordable housing constructed in more communities,” said Charbonneau.

He added that members of council share that view.

“Opening the door to development charges gives us some tools … to move faster than we ever could before.”

There was also discussion about a point raised by Charbonneau – exempting downtown core commercial development, and industrial development. “It would address Huron-Kinloss’ concern on industrial on farm properties,” he said.

McIver was in agreement on that point.

“We’re (North Bruce Peninsula) struggling to get new commercial and industrial development,” he said.

Peabody, too, commented on the issue.

“We’re in competition with Hanover,” he said. “(Development charges for commercial and industrial) would make it even harder for us.”

County Coun. Robert Buckle, South Bruce asked if small family farm-related businesses, such as a sawmill, would be exempt. He added that if they weren’t, it would be “devastating.”

Right now, they aren’t exempt, but it’s being considered, said the consultant.

Peabody raised a concern about inequity in the county.

“The letter from Huron-Kinloss does address the equity of distribution of services in the county. It’s something I worry about … in this latest budget, a lot of pressure came from Walkerton (a bridge and long-term care home).”

He questioned the policy of putting affordable housing “all in one community – winner take all. We need to find a better way to distribute those resources,” he said.

McIver commented, “We feel a little left out from expenditures in county, but growth anywhere is good for us all.”

He said he agreed with Peabody’s suggestion about spreading out affordable housing a bit.

Christine MacDonald, Bruce County’s director of human services, said that where supportive housing is being put is “roughly representative of (permanent) population distribution.”

It’s a formula that McIver said doesn’t work for Northern Bruce Peninsula, because so many of the people are seasonal residents.

Charbonneau commented that development charges are for growth; there’s also an obligation to fund affordable housing, using different tools.

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

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