City throws out new development fees

After the province turned down Cranbrook’s development cost charge bylaw, council has decided to stick with 2004 rates

The City of Cranbrook has been forced to scrap changes to development fees after the B.C. government refused to approve the new bylaw.

At its regular council meeting on Monday, March 3, city council rescinded three readings of its Development Cost Charge Bylaw. It would have seen development cost charges (DCCs) rise, for example, from $2,032 per home in a low density residential development to $4,289 per home.

DCCs are fees that developers pay the city to cover capital construction of municipal services such as water, sewer, storm water and roads.

The new bylaw was originally given the tick of approval by council in August 2012 after a stakeholder workshop, open house and public hearing in spring and summer 2012.

Once council has given three readings to the bylaw, municipal procedure then requires the Inspector of Municipalities to approve it.

However, director of engineering Jamie Hodge told council on Monday that, after several discussions with the province, it became clear that the research the city had based its new DCCs on was outdated and the bylaw would not be approved by the Inspector.

“It became very apparent that at this point, the information is dated,” said Hodge.

The DCC bylaw was based on Cranbrook’s 2005 Master Plan and its 2008 Growth Management Study.

“It was correct at the time and it was a fair reflection of what we should have expected in the next five or 10 year period, and that is simply not the case now. There are too many major changes throughout the economy,” said Hodge, pointing out that before the 2008 recession, Cranbrook had two major developments – Shadow Mountain and Wildstone – in the works.

“Probably the thing that has changed the most is the time frame (in which) we are going to reach 30,000 population,” explained Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Staudt. “Back in 2007 and 2008, a lot of people believed we were going to see those two developments fill up overnight, and that would have taken us to 30,000 population. That threshold now is way out there somewhere and I don’t know where that target is.”

Councillor Sharon Cross expressed frustration that the Growth Management Study’s projections are no longer valid.

“I find this really disappointing. The bad news for the taxpayer is that the Growth Management Study document cost us a half-million dollars,” she said.

Councillor Bob Whetham pointed out that it took the province 18 months to provide feedback on the bylaw.

“I’m mostly disappointed that it seems to have taken well over a year for the province to give us any information about whether this is acceptable or not. That is a long review period,” he said.

Staudt said that when council puts together a new DCC bylaw, the city will send a draft to the province early on in the process.

“If we had taken that approach early on, we probably would have realized then that we would have some of these difficulties and we would have know we were on the wrong path,” he said.

Councillor Gerry Warner called the bylaw refusal “a black eye for Cranbrook”.

“I feel a little let down. I voted on this in good faith and to be slapped down by the provincial government without even an explanation – that doesn’t look good. It makes all of us not look good. I sure hope we can bail ourselves out of this.”

City staff have already began to revise Master Plans for water, sewer and storm water, which will be used to draft a new DCC bylaw.

“There will probably be some changes in the rates. I don’t think they will be great; some will go up, some will go down,” said Hodge.

In the meantime, Mayor Wayne Stetski pointed out that developers can take advantage of the previous DCCs from 2004 for probably another two years.

“That’s good news for developers. We are still using DCC rates from 2004 so I encourage you to get out and develop,” he said.