Little support for fees
Development charges ‘killing’ growth, councillors told
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.