July 16, 2014

Development charges could soar with sewers

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin has left its total development charges (DCs) virtually unchanged as part of a mandatory five-year review, but the fees for building new homes or businesses would jump significantly if a sewer system is constructed in Hillsburgh or Erin village.

Dan Wilson of Watson & Associates Economists could not estimate the size of such an increase, but Mayor Lou Maieron said it could make Erin the most expensive place in Wellington County for building projects.

The town-wide DC for new single detached home (not including water service) will rise from $8,234 to $10,126. The separate charge for water-serviced areas is going down from $5,092 to $3,116, leaving the total at $13,242 for most urban areas – just $84 more than the current charge. An extra $2,763 will go to the county.

Finance Director Sharon Marshall said the lower water DC is based on the expectation that a developer will agree to cover the entire cost of certain improvements – a new municipal well, for example – outside of the DC system. A heavier weighting has been given to transportation and fire protection costs, with a lower weighting to parks and recreation.

The charges for commercial and industrial buildings follow a similar pattern, with the rate rising from $5.19 to $5.31, plus $1.76 for the county.

A presentation of the Development Charges Background Study was made at a public meeting on July 8, as part of a process that is costing the Town $25,000 and could see a new bylaw passed on July 22. There were few public comments and no criticisms of the proposed charges.

“You are fairly competitive compared to other municipalities in the area,” said Wilson.

Erin’s commercial/industrial DCs are higher than in Minto, Puslinch and Mapleton. They are lower than in Guelph-Eramosa, Wellington North and Centre Wellington, but those areas have substantial wastewater charges.

Erin’s charges are substantially less than those in Halton Hills, Orangeville, Guelph and Caledon (which has the highest rates – a total of $58,436 per house and $16.04 per square foot for businesses). Councillor John Brennan estimates that even with a wastewater charge (which would require a new bylaw), Erin will still be competitive with these neighbours.

Development charges are levied on new buildings to offset the capital costs related to growth, which are in addition to basic elements of a subdivision such as roads, sidewalks and streetlights. Only certain costs, or percentages of costs, can be included in the calculation. These include extra road/highway costs, fire protection, recreation services, water services and growth-related studies. There are deductions for the extent to which expenditures benefit existing residents, for expected grants and subsidies, and for benefit beyond the forecast period.

Erin’s Anticipated Capital Needs are $18.15 million, with $7.31 million recoverable through DCs.

A growth forecast based on the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan, the Official Plan, the census, the previous DC study and discussions with staff, estimates that the population of the Town will grow from 11,722 in 2014 to 12,921 in 2024 and to 14,078 by the “full buildout” in 2029 (based on current estimates of capacity).

Before sewers, the majority of growth will be on rural properties, with the forecast based on a sewage plant in operation by 2021. The number of new homes would be 440 by 2024 and 875 by 2029 (500 in urban areas, 375 in rural).