City council tables controversial levy bylaw, after developers speak up
Airdrie City Council tabled a bylaw that, if approved, will see off-site levies and public facilities contributions for new developments increase by about 27 per cent over current levels.
The decision was made after several developers spoke against the bylaw during a public input session, Nov. 5.
Mayor Peter Brown and aldermen Allan Hunter, Ron Chapman, Kelly Hegg and Murray Buchanan voted in favour of tabling the bylaw to allow more discussion. Aldermen Fred Burley and Glenda Alexander were against the tabling motion, made by Hunter.
“I suggest tabling it for 30 days to have more input from stakeholders, (so the City can) come up with something more fair and equitable and more palatable to the development industry,” said Hunter.
If approved, the bylaw would see levies and contributions - charges applied to new developments to fund necessary services such as water, sewer and roads – increase from $62,000 per acre to $78,800 per acre.
That number raised concern for several developers, including Trevor Sholdice of Melcor Developments.
“Melcor recognizes the need for improved infrastructure as the city grows,” he said. “We at Melcor are prepared to pay our fair share. We must keep tabs on the increase in off-site levies… the increased costs are passed down to the homebuyers, many of whom are struggling.”
Sholdice added the proposed levies were determined largely by City staff.
“They tell you they have addressed our concerns, but they haven’t,” he said.
According to Lorne Stevens, Airdrie’s director of community infrastructure, the City began discussions with the industry regarding the off-site levies last December.
“It has taken until today… to get where we are,” said Stevens. “This isn’t something that has occurred over a month or two.”
The City’s position, spelled out in the Airdrie City Plan, is that growth must pay for itself. The City last reviewed off-site levies in 2010.
At that time, levies were set at about $60,000 per acre and reset to about $62,000 to follow inflation in 2011. Rates did not increase in 2012, according to Stevens.
In February, the City hired BSEI Municipal Consulting Engineers to complete a review and report on off-site bylaws.
The company’s analysis considered servicing requirements to support populations of 60,000 and 80,000 and identified the projects that would be needed.
Concerns outlined by developers over the bylaw include fair allocation of costs, erosion of Airdrie’s competitive advantage, the potential impact of proposed Calgary water/wastewater acreage assessments, the issue of a proposed public facilities contribution and implementation timing.
Michael Flynn, executive director of Calgary’s Urban Development Institute (UDI) of which a number of Airdrie developers are a members, spoke against the bylaw.
“Our members do believe it is appropriate to make some contributions, but the numbers proposed are somewhat high,” he said. “I think this can be resolved relatively quickly with the right dedication on both sides.”
Flynn said the UDI takes issue mainly with the public facility contribution, a voluntary contribution proposed to be set at about $15,000 per acre to cover the cost of building new recreation and community facilities such as firehalls, libraries, arenas and RCMP buildings.
The City of Calgary recently adopted levies and development charges in the range of $129,000 per acre.
Burley said he voted against the motion to table the bylaw because the discussion has gone on long enough.
“It’s time to settle this,” he said. “It’s been a year.”
Council will once discuss the bylaw Dec. 4 meeting, at City Hall at 7 p.m.