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Council hosts Development Charges meeting to consider bylaw changes

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, a special meeting was held inside the Council Chambers at the Essex Civic & Education Centre, where Gary Scandlan, of Watson & Associates Economists LTD., provided members of Essex Council and Administration with information regarding development charges. He also presented a Development Charges Bylaw proposal to Council as the current Bylaw will expire September 1.

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 development charges is to service new growth in the municipality so taxpayers are not on the hook.

Council hosted an informational meeting about development charges with Scandland in May. He noted municipalities have been able to implement development charges for around 60 years. Bylaws have a five-year life term before they need to be reviewed. He also explained Bill 108: More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan during the meeting, which will, in some cases, affect how municipalities will be able to collect and impose development charges.

  Municipalities can make these charges through the Development Charges Act.  

  Currently, Development Charges have been removed in Ward 4 to spur growth.

  In 2015, a previous term of Council provided for a fifty percent reduction in residential Development Charges for Harrow. This Bylaw expired on December 28, 2016 and was further extended to December 31, 2017. At that time, the amendment to the bylaw that enforces the imposition of development charges for the Town was enacted to provide a 100-percent discount for development charges on residential development in Harrow between January 1, 2018 and August 25, 2019.

  This amendment to the Bylaw was implemented to help attract families to Harrow during a time when the high school was still being considered for closure.

  Further, in May of 2018, the Council of the day adopted an amendment to Bylaw 1344 that imposes development charges. The amendment reduced commercial development charges by 100 percent in areas that fall outside of the Town’s existing Community Improvement Plan boundaries. The changes are also in effect until August 25, 2019.

  The 100 percent reduction in commercial development charges is funded through the new tax revenue or incremental commercial property tax revenue from each applicable development, based on a calculated payback period.

  Further, in March of this year, Council approved using an increment tax increase model to fund multiple-residential development charges. This model, depending on the situation, could leave the Town with no tax revenue from the facility once it is built for a few years as the development fees waived have to be paid back.

  Reduction in development charges must be funded from other sources. Development Charge amendments also have to consider the waste-water potion.

  As these amendments to the development charges Bylaw expire in August, the background session on Monday evening was held so Council could consider possible amendments.

  Scandland proposed Council consider a list of amendments to Essex’s Development Charges Bylaw, which includes exempting commercial non-residential development (which would be in addition to institutional and industrial exemptions), and included added exemption for rental apartment developments for municipal-wide portion of development charges only. Another suggestion was to exempt affordable housing development for municipal-wide development charges only, as well.

Other exemptions included all residential development in the Harrow Primary Settlement Area, places of worship, churchyards, cemeteries, hospitals, and non-residential farm buildings.

Scandland asked Council to comment on the considerations he put forward.

Essex’s CAO Chris Nepszy said he wanted Council to think ahead and about what they want this bylaw to look like.

Mayor Larry Snively said Development Charges are important. He noted Harrow is suffering in terms of growth, and he hopes the exemption for Ward 4 will help.

Based on the numbers shown at the meeting, Councillor Steve Bjorkman did not want to provide commercial development with the exemption. He asked Council how far it would like to go with that, wondering if maybe it should be a 50 percent reduction.

Council will consider the proposed amendments and rates, and make a decision at a meeting in August.

Council received Scandlan’s report.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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