Hawkesbury council held a public meeting on February 18 to discuss the possibility of introducing development charges.

The public meeting is required by provincial law for municipalities considering the introduction of development charges to help cover the cost of new infrastructure required for new residential and commercial developments, instead of having the costs covered by existing taxpayers.

In 2019, the town commissioned economics firm Watson and Associates to prepare a development charges study, which was presented to council in December.  The study cost $32,790 before HST, along with a further $2,540 was spent on an additional information session for council and a supplementary meeting.

The 130-page report stated that by the end of 2020, Hawkesbury will have 4,995 non-institutional, residential housing units.  The town will have 5,509 by 2030.  Employment-based developments are expected to increase from 6,238 in 2020 to 7,050 in 2030.

In addition to road, water, and wastewater needs, the study also considered development charges for fire protection, parks and recreation, by-law enforcement, and public library services.  However, recent provincial legislation limits municipalities to only imposing 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.

Based on the 2019 amount of developed land in the town, Hawkesbury could have recovered approximately $15 million on only the charges allowed under the new provincial law.

On February 18, Andrew Grunda of Watson and Associates presented a proposed schedule of development charges to council.  They range from $3,657 per new single and semi-detached residential dwelling to $2.15 per square foot of gross floor area for new non-residential buildings.

The fees proposed by the study are valid until December 20 for council to adopt in a by-law, if it chooses.  However, council is not prepared to do that right away.

Mayor Paula Assaly was dismayed by the low population and development growth projections for Hawkesbury in the study.

Only 1,057 more residents are projected to settle in Hawkesbury by 2030.

“I hope we can do better,” said Assaly.

She added that the slow residential growth makes her somewhat reluctant to introduce residential development charges.  Most growth in Hawkesbury is commercial and industrial.  Only five new residential dwellings were constructed in the town in 2019.

Grunda said that some municipalities can choose to phase them in and measure if they are having an impact and then make by-law changes to halt phase increases.

Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis called the proposed charges reasonable.

“To me, this is a development tool for the future of this community,” commented Chief Administrative Officer Daniel Gatien.  He added that the charges should have been implemented a long time ago.

There were only two people in the audience, and neither of them made comments.

“I think it’s up to us now to review it again,” said Assaly, who anticipated further discussion at a future council meeting.

Senior Planner Manon Belle-Isle said a residential developer submitted questions but was unable to attend the public meeting.

Assaly suggested inviting the developer to the March Committee of the Whole meeting in order to present them with the information.