Development fees raised to $15,000 in Renfrew

·5 min read

Renfrew – At their last council meeting of 2021, Renfrew council introduced a five-year scheduled increase for new homebuilders and opted to use a much lower fee schedule with a cap of $15,000 rather than the $36,000 that was suggested last month.

The current cost to a homebuilder is $9,500 and that will remain in effect until July 1, 2022, when it increases to $10,600. After that, the cost will increase every January 1 until it reaches $15,000.

Sometime in late 2026, a new Development Fee by-law will be set by whoever occupies the seats around the council table as the current one passed this week will expire on December 31st.

The recommendation for the increase was developed by town planner Eric Withers and it was based on a comprehensive report prepared by Gary Scandlan of Watson & Associates, a Mississauga consulting firm specializing in municipal finance and planning. The report was first issued at a public meeting on November 9 and provided both council and the public a chance to review the calculations.

Council held a special meeting on November 30 with a goal of setting the rate then, but after nearly 90 minutes of discussion it became evident there were two schools of thought emerging.

One view, strongly supported by Councillors Andrew Evans and Mike Coulas, called for the fee structure to begin at the current rate of $9,500 and gradually increase to the $15,000 range and a second view, suggested but not strongly endorsed by Reeve Peter Emon and Councillor Sandi Heins, called for a more aggressive schedule beginning in the $12,000 -$14,000 range and increasing from there. Coun. Heins said the $18,000 range was her preferred target since it was at least half-way to the suggested $36,000 maximum. Reeve Emon’s formula capped out at $21,000. He also recommended the July 1, 2022, start date to allow developers more than 14 days to adapt to a sudden increase.

At the November 30 meeting, Mayor Don Eady was in the middle of the two views and upon his suggestion, he recommended council return for last week’s meeting with two schedules to decide upon.

Reeve Emon started the discussion by supporting the second option which ended with a cap of $18,000.

Councillor Tom Sidney recommended the first option which had a cap of $15,000

“I prefer the lower option simply because we want to encourage development and don’t want to discourage development,” he said. “I would rather collect property taxes for the 40 years the house is there and not see the developer go to another town because our fees are too high.”

In the end, the more gradual lower increase schedule was adopted and although there were certainly differing views, Mayor Don Eady said there was a feeling of consensus around the council table.

“Going into the meeting, I had a feeling we might go on the low side for the fee increase and I would call it a fair compromise,” he said. “There has to be cost recovery for the town because when you build houses there is infrastructure and the costs to provide those services.

“There have been inquiries from some interested parties about future development but I can’t say anything further because the decision is up to them,” he added. “But it is good we have a schedule in place and it is good to see developers are looking at Renfrew as a place to build.”

Coun. Evans, who was firm on the $9,500 starting point rather than jumping to $12,000 or more as suggested at the November 30 meeting, was satisfied with the result.

“I respect the idea of development fees because there has to be some kind of cost-recovery and I am satisfied with the schedule of fees we introduced this week,” he said. “Like all towns, Renfrew needs a foundation to build on. The fees are much cheaper than you will find compared to Ottawa, but that city also has so many features and attractions and the price of land is through the roof so it is easy to understand such a difference.

“With a solid foundation in place, Renfrew is now well placed for future development and home builders also have the option to pay the fees in installments and that can help in some cases.”

He said close to one-third of the overall development fees is to cover the costs of the Ma-Te-Way development.

Coun. Coulas said it all comes down to economics and the fact that Renfrew is competing with other neighbouring towns and the town needed to stay competitive.

Both Councillors Jamieson and Heins also favoured the first option.

Coun. Evans said when the town passes development fees on to a developer, they will just roll it into the cost of the house and it is covered by the actual homeowner.

Although he originally favoured the higher fee structure, Reeve Emon voted for the lower option.

“I’m encouraged by the commitment to seek out and promote for other developers to come to the community, so I’m interested to see what that plan will be and how aggressive it will be,” Reeve Emon said. “I think we’ve been talking about it for a few years so it’ll be nice to see it roll out.”

The following is a breakdown of increases over the next five years for single dwellings:

Present to June 30, 2022 - $9,500; July 1 to Dec. 31, 2022 - $10,600; Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023 - $11,700; Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2024 - $12,800, and

Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2025 - $13,900.

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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