Creston Town Hall is located on 10th Avenue North.

Creston Town Hall is located on 10th Avenue North.

Creston town council deferring changes to development cost charge bylaw to 2015

Web Lead

  • Sep. 12, 2014 4:00 p.m.

Faced with angry developers and a looming election, Creston town council has deferred making changes to the development cost charge bylaw to 2015, when it will become part of Official Community Plan discussions.

Three of the area’s major property developers stated their opposition to a proposal that would see DCCs increased, and also applied to new developments throughout the town, an expansion from the current Alice Siding designation.

DCCs are intended to cover some of the costs of infrastructure upgrades and improvements — roads, water and sewer, primarily — that must be made to accommodate new construction. Developers also pay for all new infrastructure construction on the land they are developing.

Before the meeting was opened to presentations from delegations, town engineering manager Colin Farynowski provided council with an outline of consultation meetings that have been held over the past two years.

“This proposed bylaw has me concerned for future development,” Terry Rendek of Atlin Property Development Corporation told council.

He said that a $1million warehouse construction, for example, would have a negligible impact on existing services, and would increase town property tax revenues, but that higher DCCs would make it economically unviable when compared to other communities.

“I appreciate the town has held meetings for developers and we didn’t do a great job of attending, but we also have businesses to run,” he said. “We were waiting to see a finished product and now, with very short notice, we are seeing it close to being enacted.”

Rendek said the proposed DCCs would be higher than in all similar size communities in B.C. except Comox and Fernie, “both of which have very different challenges” when it comes to infrastructure.

Norm Mailhot, one of the principles in the Hawkview Estates development, provided council with an outline of how much his group had paid to develop the land, DCC costs to date and how much property tax revenue the existing properties are generating. He said consultation on a new DCC bylaw has been inadequate and that increased charges threatened the viability of future development.

Bill Hutchinson, who was a longtime town manager, represented the Wigen family, which is currently developing land on Devon Street.

“It comes with some shock that council would undertake a public input process for something as significant as a new DCC bylaw at this time of year and at this time in the electoral calendar,” he said. “First of all, the developers which I have been involved with are busy trying to sell some of their extensive inventory and/or trying to obtain municipal/provincial approval to start selling some inventory and not miss the positive economic blip which we find ourselves in at this time. Secondly, the introduction of new DCC’s 300 per cent increase may well become an election issue.”

Hutchinson said properties that are developed but remain unsold still generate revenue for the town.

“One developer who has just placed 19 lots on the market paid $3,000 per lot in DCCs and was considering applying for tax relief for taxes on these 19 lots as none are sold and we are heading into fall and a new tax year,” he said. “These lots will generate $20,000 per year of tax revenue to the taxing jurisdictions with no impact to the infrastructure as long as they remain unsold. If the DCC rate is tripled, you can be assured the next phase will not be developed in the near future.”

He also had a recommendation.

“At the very least, council should consider increasing the municipal [assist] factor to 50 per cent and phasing in the bylaw over the next six years, an acceptable alternative.”

The phases he recommended included DCCs of $3,000 in 2015, $5,000 in 2017, $7,000 in 2019 and $9,000 in 2021.

When the regular meeting resumed, Coun. Wesly Graham asked the developers in the audience, “How do we get you to show up to public input meetings? How do we get people engaged before it gets to a drop dead date?”

“We are here based on the final product,” Rendek replied. “I’m not sure how our other ideas would have been accepted. But we have to be heard, just like the other ratepayers. DCCs have to be considered from a development side, not just from a bureaucratic side.”

Coun. Scott Veitch said that the bylaw could have been introduced last spring, but council objected.

“Until recently this (bylaw) would have been a fait accompli, but a couple of councillors slowed it down so we could hear from developers,” he said.

Coun. Judy Gadicke asked town manager Lou Varela if staff had any opposition to inviting “a little bit more consultation.”

“DCCs are important discussions to developers and the general public,” Varela responded. “We are starting into an OCP and DCCs usually go hand-in-hand with OCPs. It seems very reasonable to refer discussion to the OCP process if council desires.”

Council voted unanimously to refer development cost charges to the OCP process in 2015.

 

Council Briefs

•A request from the new owner of Creston Cab Co. to be included in a Taxi Saver program under BC Transit was referred to the Creston Valley Services Committee, because the public transit system is funded by the town and Regional District of Central Kootenay Areas B and C. A Taxi Saver program allows riders to purchase subsidized taxi rides as an alternative to the existing HandyDart service.

•Budgeted funds for the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Authority have been released, finance director Steffan Klassen said. Council voted to accept an invitation to tour the CVWMA lands by head of operations Marc-André Beaucher.

•A request by a Cranbrook auto dealership to hold a sale in town was denied because it contravenes existing bylaws, which are already in the process of being revisited.

•Council approved a request to allow Hawkview Estates Ltd. to install two community identification signs at the two entrances to the development.