Lit­tle sup­port for fees

De­vel­op­ment charges ‘killing’ growth, coun­cil­lors told

The Sudbury Star - - LOCAL - MARY KATHER­INE KEOWN mkke­[email protected]­ Twit­ter: @marykke­own 705 674 5271 ext. 505235

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­lic, de­vel­op­ment charges have to go.

City coun­cil held a pub­lic in­put ses­sion on de­vel­op­ment charges, as part of their reg­u­lar meet­ing Tues­day. A few peo­ple of­fered their opin­ions. Most de­cried the fees and said they are not ap­pro­pri­ate for Sud­bury.

Les Lisk, pres­i­dent of the Coniston Non-Profit Se­niors’ Hous­ing Cor­po­ra­tion, said waiv­ing de­vel­op­ment fees – which ac­count for 3.8 per cent of his project’s bud­get – would en­able his group to pro­ceed with the con­struc­tion of a se­nior-friendly fa­cil­ity, which will then ben­e­fit the lo­cal econ­omy.

“This project is a win-win for ev­ery­one,” Lisk said. “We’re pro­vid­ing af­ford­able hous­ing for se­niors. … The eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion of such a project is 21 times the cost of con­struc­tion. Our project, which will cost $13.5 mil­lion, mul­ti­plied by 21, that’s $273 mil­lion that will be in­jected into Sud­bury’s econ­omy. That’s as­tound­ing.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion re­ceived ap­proval from the plan­ning com­mit­tee in 2016 to build a five-storey, 55-unit com­plex for se­niors on 17 acres of land in Coniston. Lisk said many are anx­ious to see the project re­al­ized.

Carla Co­lasi­mone of the Sud­bury Home­builders’ As­so­ci­a­tion said de­vel­op­ment charges are ap­pro­pri­ate for cities that are grow­ing. While Sud­bury’s growth has de­clined since 2009, Co­lasi­mone said de­vel­op­ment charges have risen from about $3,000 to more than $14,000.

As she pointed out, Sud­bury’s growth over the next 10 years is pre­dicted to be very slim, just one per cent.

“Can we ac­tu­ally con­sider that growth?” she asked coun­cil. “This re­minds me of the chicken and the egg sit­u­a­tion. What comes first – growth or in­vest­ment?”

Co­lasi­mone said the city needs to cre­ate in­cen­tives that will at­tract in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies.

“When we talk about the af­ford­abil­ity new hous­ing, we must en­sure de­vel­op­ment charges don’t price new home­own­ers out of the mar­ket,” she said. “After all, ev­ery new home cre­ates a tax-pay­ing house­hold.”

Low­er­ing de­vel­op­ment charges will pro­mote long-term gain, Co­lasi­mone said.

Paul Kennedy, who pre­vi­ously owned a build­ing com­pany, said he has been work­ing in Sud­bury for years and knows as much as any­one in the city about de­vel­op­ment charges. He ad­vised coun­cil to in­sti­tute nom­i­nal de­vel­op­ment charges – about $2,000 for a sin­gle-fam­ily res­i­den­tial dwelling. He said higher fees dis­cour­age de­vel­op­ment.

Fi­nally, Tom Price, who works closely with Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, said he wor­ries about what is hap­pen­ing with Sud­bury’s econ­omy and so­cial fab­ric. Price said ameni­ties and ser­vices in the west­ern por­tion of Sud­bury – in­clud­ing Naughton, White­fish and Beaver Lake – have been evis­cer­ated in re­cent years. There has been no in­fra­struc­ture work, fire sta­tions have lost all kinds of vol­un­teers, there is very lit­tle po­lice pres­ence and snow re­moval is “hor­ri­ble,” Price said.

Price also said de­vel­op­ment charges are buck­ling the lo­cal econ­omy since they dis­cour­age com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment, while in places like Es­panola and Stur­geon Falls, economies are thriv­ing. De­vel­op­ment charges are “killing the com­mu­nity,” Price warned.

The cur­rent by­law gov­ern­ing de­vel­op­ment charges ex­pires June 30. The new struc­ture would take ef­fect July 1 and would be in place for five years. If coun­cil adopts the changes pro­posed by staff, most de­vel­op­ment charges would be marginally re­duced.

The de­vel­op­ment charges for a sin­gle-fam­ily dwelling will go down to $17,718 (a decrease of $46 or 0.3 per cent), while charges for apart­ments will drop to $10,225 (a decrease of $226 or 2.2 per cent). De­vel­op­ment charges for non-in­dus­trial prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing those with com­mer­cial or in­sti­tu­tional uses, will be re­duced to $8.89 per square foot (a decrease of $0.51 per square foot or 5.4 per cent).

Semis will go up to $14,235 (an in­crease of $127 or 0.9 per cent), while de­vel­op­ment charges for in­dus­trial prop­er­ties will be in­creased to $5.92 per square foot (an in­crease of $1 per square foot or 20.3 per cent).

At last week’s meet­ing of the fi­nance com­mit­tee, coun­cil­lors also de­bated the im­pact that re­duc­ing de­vel­op­ment charges by 50 per cent would have on the city’s econ­omy and growth po­ten­tial, but they drew no con­clu­sions.

Coun­cil is sched­uled to make a de­ci­sion about de­vel­op­ment charges on May 28.

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