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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Council sets course to update Development Charges Bylaw

by Sylene Argent

Last Wednesday evening, Essex Council hosted another Development Charges meeting with Gary Scandlan of Watson & Associates Economists LTD. at the Municipal Building.

  The Town’s current Development Charges Bylaw, and the amendments made to it over the past few years, is set to expire at the end of this month. In preparation of the Bylaw’s expiration, Council has hosted several special meetings in the recent past to determine what this Bylaw should look like moving forward.

  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, it was explained to Council at previous meetings on this Bylaw.

  Municipalities can make these charges through the Development Charges Act. Reduction in Development Charges must be funded from other sources.  

  As part of this process, rate calculations were proposed.

  During the meeting, Councillor Steve Bjorkman said he liked the idea of a phasing plan for Harrow residential. He said Essex is trying to attract business. As the Development Charges reduction looks like a discount price, he was in favour of looking a five-year plan where each year, the Development Charge reduction would decrease 25 percent.

  “There needs to be a date to say this is what we are offering. Amendments can be made [if Council wishes to extend the reduced Development Charges in the future]. We are trying to get people excited to come in and build,” he said.

  Bjorkman put a motion forward, which Council approved, that direction be given to administration that Development Charges Bylaw including the existing exemptions (highlighted below), the way they are written. He added a 100 percent reduction for the Harrow Primary Settlement Area, with a five-year plan where a 100 percent reduction will stand for 2-years, with the amount decreasing 25 percent each year after that.

  “In my opinion, we are again showing our town is open for business,” Bjorkman said after the meeting.


Draft Development Charges Bylaw exemptions

  • Lands, buildings, or structures used or to be used for a place of worship or for the purposes of a cemetery or burial ground.

• A public hospital

• The development of non-residential farm buildings constructed for bona fide farm uses.

• The development of affordable housing, with an amendment that it be for the municipal-wide portion only. Charges for wastewater will still be imposed on affordable housing development.

• The June 20, 2019 Background Study and Draft Bylaw provided an exemption for institutional and industrial developments. This has been amended to exempt all non-residential development, including commercial.

• Added at this meeting, a 100 percent reduction for the Harrow Primary Settlement Area with a five-year plan where a 100 percent reduction will stand for 2-years, with the amount decreasing 25 percent each year after that.


Final Bylaw Approval

Essex Council will consider final approval of the Development Charges Bylaw, including the exemptions and amendments made, at a Special Council meeting on August 27 at 5 p.m. at the Essex Municipal Building.


History of Essex’s Development Charges changes

• 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 get families in Harrow during a time the high school was still being considered for closure.

• 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 a 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 incremental tax increase to fund multiple-residential development charges. This model, depending onthe 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.

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