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Continued Essex Council notes - Monday, March 16, 2020

by Sylene Argent

Council to consider waiving Development Charges for infill residential development

Lori Chadwick, Director of Development Services, provided a presentation for Council to consider regarding infill residential development. Council will have to decide, in the future, whether or not Development Charges should be waived, or if other incentive programs should be implemented, to encourage more residential development.   At a meeting in December, Council asked the Planning Department to create a report on Infill Residential Development opportunities within the Town of Essex, and the potential cost to ratepayers if Development Charges were eliminated on such lots.   Development Charges recover the capital costs associated with residential and non-residential growth within a municipality. These costs are in addition to construction, and include items like internal roads of a subdivision, sewers, watermains, sidewalks, and streetlights. The idea of having Development Charges is to service new growth in the municipality, so taxpayers are not on the hook.   Municipalities can make these charges through the Development Charges Act. Reduction in Development Charges, however, must be funded from other sources.    During the presentation to Council, Chadwick explained an infill lot is an existing vacant lot of record on an available piece of land, located between existing homes on a street with suitable municipal services for residential purposes.   “We feel that it helps to meet housing targets by providing another option for builders to develop residential dwellings. It also provides an optimum use of municipal services,” Chadwick said of advantages associated with Council offering incentives for infill lot opportunities.   Other opportunities, she said, include the reduction of land conversion for large-scale development, it rejuvenates older neighbourhoods, and provides for more attainable housing options, which are modestly priced, new for sale homes.   During her presentation, Chadwick went through the inventory of lots that are ready to build, lots that are constrained by zoning, and lots that are constrained by services within the Town of Essex.           “Ready to build lots,” Chadwick said, are independent of abutting lots, and have proper zoning and municipal services in place. They are also an appropriate size for single-detached dwellings.   Chadwick used a GIS map during her presentation to show were the three types of lots were located within Essex Centre, Harrow Centre, McGregor Centre, Colchester Centre, and on County Road 50 West.   Through the Planning Department’s review, Chadwick said, there are 132 potential development infill dwelling units within the Town of Essex.   She said there is quite a bit of opportunity in Colchester Centre and along County Road 50 West, as there are 112 units that could be ready for development.   “So, we have plans to boost commercial development opportunities in Colchester. We have a Colchester Secondary Plan that we are going to re-open up and take a look at. We have an opportunity to bring in more development opportunities in that district, so could we tie incentives to promote residential growth in line with our mission for commercial growth as well,” Chadwick said.   The potential to incentivize through the waiving of Development Charges requires an amendment to the Development Charges Bylaw. In order to make any changes to the Development Charges Bylaw, the Town would have to hold a public meeting two weeks after an official report is released, and then hold a Council meeting 60 days after the report was made public to make a decision.   The Planning Department, Chadwick said, took into account there are different Development Charges for different centres in Essex. With that in mind, if all 132 potential infill dwelling units were developed, she said this could potentially be $1.3M in full Development Charges that, if Council decides to waive, would have to be funded somehow. This would be the worst-case scenario as there would be no way to know if all these potential lots will be developed or when they could be developed.   Council could put a timeframe on an incentivization through the Development Charges, she said.   Other potential incentivization opportunities, she added, could include waiving the rezoning application fees, which are $7,740. Educating and communicating with the individuals who own these lots could also help get the lots developed.   Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said one of the things he looks at when considering the information provided in Chadwick’s report is that each one of these potential new homes would be worth a minimum of $200,000. So, he was looking at the potential of property tax. On 132 homes, if the Town was able to collect around $2000 a year each for property taxes, the Town could potentially reclaim the Development Charges, if waived, in around seven years.   Meloche suggested the Town not necessarily waive the Development Charges for these 132 potential units, but create a loan program that would collect those taxes over that seven-year period, which would go back to pay the Development Charges. He also suggested that water and sewage not be included in such an incentivising program. A time limit could also be implemented on the offering of such a program.   Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said $1.3M is a lot for the Town to giveaway, and he was not sure the Town would have to. He said the Town just had a fabulous development month. He suggested the Town hold off on incentivizing construction along County Road 50 West and Colchester Centre, because he believes there is a lack of building there due to a lack of good internet. He believes that will changes over the next few years.   Another way the Town could incentivize, Vander Dolen said, is to not give up the Development Charges, but to allow the opportunity, for appropriate units, to add duplexes or fourplexes to create more density.   Mayor Larry Snively said he agreed with both Meloche and Vander Doelen, but he believes the first step is to get Colchester Centre re-zoned commercial, then residential growth will come.   Councillor Sherry Bondy suggested the Town could look into offering developers one set of development fees for a duplex.   If Council decides to wave the Development Charges for the 132 potential dwellings, Council needs to keep in mind the money has to come from somewhere, CAO Chris Nepszy, said. This is money that is not in the current or future budgets. Before hosting a public meeting to get public feedback, he suggested Council host a special meeting to talk about these costs and where the money could come from.   Deputy Mayor Meloche put a motion forward that Essex’s Director of Corporate Service/Treasurer, Jeff Morrison, take a look at how the Town could finance covering the Development Charges for this potential program, not including for waste water and water. Motion carried.   Morrison said the payback period Meloche mentioned has been used for other Development Charges programs, such as for commercial, multi-residential, and affordable housing programs, in Essex.   


Results of Request for Tender – 2020 Essex Watermain Improvements

Essex Council received the Department of Capital Works and Infrastructure’s report “Results of Request for Tender – 2020 Essex Watermain Improvements,” and further awarded the Request for Tender for this file to Nevan Construction Inc. in the amount of $1,888,055.04, including non-refundable Harmonized Sales Tax.   The Report to Council on the matter notes during the 2020 Capital Budget deliberations, Council approved funding for the Essex watermain improvements, which will include the replacement of existing watermain, services, storm sewer, storm connection, sidewalk pavement milling, and resurfacing of existing roadway.   The areas to be included are: the Gordon, Wilson, and Station Street area; Queen Street improvements; Queen Street Storm; Gordon, Wilson, Fox, and Station Street Main Replacement; and Queen Street (Phillip Ferris to Concession 3), Queen Watermain (Ward 4).   A total of $2,556,005.00 was allocated in the budget for this work.   According to the report, ten companies submitted applications, and Nevan Construction Inc. came in with the lowest bid.

Essex Splashpad Washroom/Changeroom RFT results

Essex Council received the report “Splashpad Washroom/Changeroom Upgrade,” and further awarded the Request for Tender to 2519181 Ontario Inc., operating as Preston Construction, in the amount of $151,902.56, including non-refundable HST.   According to the Report to Council, of the four bids, the lowest tender received was from Preston Construction Inc.   As per the Town of Essex’s 2020 approved Capital Budget, $234,556 was allocated towards this project.   Councillor Sherry Bondy said she supports this project, but would like to have a washroom/changeroom installed near the Harrow Splashpad as well. She said it is challenging to bring young children to the arena bathrooms. She hoped any leftover funds could be used to build a similar washroom/changeroom facility for the Harrow Splashpad.   It was noted at the meeting that a washroom/changeroom for the Harrow Splashpad is in the forecast for next year’s budget.   Director of Community Services/ Deputy CAO, Doug Sweet, said the project was tendered last year. Once it is awarded, he would expect construction to start as soon as possible, keeping in mind that the Essex Fun Fest date would need to be avoided.   The $234,556 budget for the project, Sweet continued, includes three components; the washrooms, to repair the flat roof, and demolish two of the sides of the existing building. The tenders for the later two components are out to tender currently.

Municipal Modernization Program Intake 1: Consulting Services

Essex Council received the report, “Municipal Modernization Program Intake 1: Consulting Services,” and further appointed StrategyCorp to provide consulting services to create an Internal and Shared Service Delivery Review for the Town of Essex. Council also waived requirements under the Procurement Bylaw.   In the report CAO Chris Nepszy prepared, it notes that on November 1, 2019, the Honourable Steven Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, advised that Intake 1 of the Municipal Modernization Program would be available to municipalities. The Province made $125 million available through 2022- 2023 to help small municipalities conduct new service delivery reviews.   Through the Province’s Municipal Modernization Program, the Town of Essex has an opportunity to conduct a service delivery review by an independent, third-party to identify opportunities for savings and efficiencies.   “The outcome from such a review would benefit the taxpayers and may assist in reducing or containing cost pressures faced by the municipality. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that with current trends and announcements from the Provincial Government is to reduce grants and funding (OMPF, Gas Tax, etc.) the Town will be forced to address levels of service and look to other solutions to remain sustainable, such as regional or shared services,” Nepszy noted in his report.   Administration is recommending to utilize StrategyCorp, the same consultant as Amherstburg, in order to deliver a regionally-minded, joint service delivery review within the tight timelines the province provided, it notes in the report.   StrategyCorp’s proposal of fees for consulting services for the Essex Internal and Shared Delivery Review is $140,786.75, which is within the successful grant awarded of $200,000, the report notes.   Councillor Sherry Bondy wondered, since there was a tight timeline, and with the COVID-19 virus keeping people in self-isolation, if the Province would give any leeway with the timeframe in which this file needed to be completed. She also wondered if the Town of Essex would have any role, with high-level meetings, to have Council weight in.   CAO Chris Nepszy said he assumes there could be some flexibility in the timelines, however, the consultant took on the project, knowing of the deadlines. As far as Council involvement on the file, he said he thinks there will be opportunity for interjection.   He added the intent was to always look at regional partnerships, which will include exploring shared services with the County of Essex and neighbouring municipalities.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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