Tuesday’s Regular Council meeting saw Madawaska Valley Council grapple yet again with the concept of Development Charges – this time to discuss an August 30th Renfrew County workshop presentation that included scenarios for implementing DCs in all County municipalities. The materials listed some 19 infrastructure costs where DCs could be applied, but also showed that Renfrew County’s only interest was in using revenues from the charges to help fund Highway Services – and that prompted an extremely negative reaction from members of MV Council. Above: MV Councillors David Shulist (l) and Joseph Olsheski.Photo YouTube.
The materials projected $36.6 million from imposing DCs of $4,759 or $5,647 per single/semi-detached housing unit on Renfrew County residents. The charge would be applied at the Building Permit stage, collected by the municipality and remitted to County when an application for a new build is made. Two options were suggested in the materials: Option 1 DCs imposed on Hwy.17 Corridor municipalities; or Option 2 DCs imposed on municipalities County-wide. MV CAO Suzanne Klatt and Planning Officer Luc Desjardins proposed a third option to Council; namely, no charges at all.
Mayor Mark Willmer spoke first. “In the last six months we tried to push through DCs on a local level which would directly go back into the township. Those were in the area of $1900. The public showed there was no appetite for that at the time…. Here we are looking at $4800 and none of that revenue, or very little, will come back into our Township…. There’s no way I can support this.”
Councillor Mary Blank agreed, saying, “It is irresponsible of County at this time to go ahead with such a thing, especially when its only concerns are the Hwy.17 Corridor and all of the plans for better development of highways there. Those [municipalities] along Hwy.17 have extreme benefits that we don’t get — both from the federal and provincial governments, as well as from County. During our DC discussions we had discussed that we would like to impose our own at a minimal charge to give us some money in our bank to use for future plans. Those included roads, landfill site and fire. And that would have stayed directly here…. “By doing this they’re just increasing the money grab from the local people to support their high-end demands. In the meantime we are not on their list of 17 or 19 projects and I think the Mayor is correct in all his comments in saying this cannot happen.” She said she was unsure if MV had the leverage to do anything against it now, “I’m hoping those [municipalities] in the county, especially this end of the county, realize that this is really stupid, it’s ignorant, it’s arrogant and it’s dictatorial.”
Councillors David Shulist and Shelley Maika also argued to propose an Option 3 to County: no DCs.
Councillor Joseph Olsheski felt proposing no DCs did not go far enough. He said that the Hwy.17 Corridor municipalities would likely vote in favour of County-wide DCs as it would set their DCs at the lower rate, saving their residents $1,000 per build. Instead he threw down the gauntlet by suggesting a different approach. Tell County Council, “You can vote in DCs if you want, but we aren’t going to collect it…. Just make it clear we aren’t entertaining any support to it and we aren’t going to be assisting in collecting and we aren’t going to be doing any paperwork. Simple.”
CAO Klatt said that staff had already identified six points of concern, and that she would add Councillor Olsheski’s concern about the weighted vote from Hwy.17 Corridor municipalities, as well as the refusal to collect. She clarified that 36 percent of residents’ tax bills goes to County, 14 percent is for schools, and the rest stays in the municipality. She stated that staff felt implementation of DCs was an admin burden that should not be absorbed by the taxpayer.
Council voted to provide Madawaska Valley’s input to Renfrew County for discussion at next County Council meeting.
Editor’s note: For a refresher on the ins and outs of Development Charges, click HERE to read Roger Prince’s opinion.