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Hawkesbury council considering development charges

Developers in Hawkesbury could soon have to pay up front to cover the cost of municipal services.

At the November 25 council meeting, the findings of a study on introducing development charges in the municipality were presented.

Andrew Grunda of Watson and Associates, the firm commissioned by the town to undertake the study, explained that the purpose of development charges is to recover the capital costs of residential and non-residential development.  Capital costs are things like the construction of new streets and water or sewer mains.  Development charge fees are collected when a municipality issues a building permit and offset the cost of building new infrastructure to taxpayers.

“The intent of development charges is to have developers pay their share,” Grunda told council.

According to the study, Hawkesbury will have 4,995 non-institutional, residential housing units in 2020.  By 2030, it will have 5,509.  Employment-based developments are forecast to increase from 6,238 in 2020 to 7,050 in 2030.  In addition to roads, water, and wastewater, the study also considered development charges for fire protection, parks and recreation, by-law enforcement, and public library services.  All projections are on the United Counties of Prescott and Russell’s official plan.

However, changes in provincial laws mean municipalities will soon only be allowed to impose development charges on water, wastewater, fire protection, and roads.  Charges for other services would have to be in the form of so-called Community Benefit Charges under the Planning Act.

If charges were only introduced on the services the new law allows, the Town of Hawkesbury could have recovered approximately $15 million in 2019 based on the amount of land developed in the town for 2019.

Grunda’s report included a proposed schedule of development charge rates.  Using only the services permitted under the new provincial law, $3,657 per single and semi-detached dwelling was suggested.  The suggested rate for apartment buildings and other multi-residential developments ranges from $2,127 to $3,657 per apartment dwelling, depending on the number of bedrooms and units.  The suggested rate for non-residential developments $2.15 per square foot.

Grunda was seeking consent from council to begin the implementation process.  However, Mayor Paula Assaly said the report “was a challenging read” and thought council should have more time to review it.

If Hawkesbury introduces these development charges, they would be the lowest in Prescott-Russell.  Champlain and East Hawkesbury only levy development charges on behalf of school boards.  Russell Township has the highest development charges.

Grunda recommended that Hawkesbury only introduce the charges allowed by provincial law and then add the Community Benefit Charges later.

Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis said he is concerned that development charges would put Hawkesbury at a disadvantage to Champlain.

“The impact of development charges varies,” said Grunda.

Council voted to defer any decision on development charges until it meets again on December 16.  If it decides to proceed with implementing the charges, the town must advertise the plan on its website and hold a public meeting within 60 days before the by-law can be approved.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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