Council fears charges may discourage development

Councillors here are having second thoughts about intro­ducing new development char­g­es for industrial and commercial businesses coming to the township.

Currently, Mapleton does not charge a development fee for them, but a report last month from Watson and As­sociates recommends new, non-residential charges of $1.40 per square foot in rural areas, $2.40 per square foot in Moorefield and $3.16 per square foot in Drayton.

“That’s quite a significant increase from nothing at all,” said Mayor John Green, who broached the subject at last week’s council meeting.

Finance Dir­ec­tor Mike Givens explained  under the proposed new policy a business planning to build a new, 4,000 square foot building in Drayton would pay a combined county and township development charge of $19,360.

Currently the same business would pay just $6,720 – to the county.

“I think it’s a big change … pretty well double what the county’s charging,” councillor Bruce Whale said, referring to the $1.68 per square foot development charge administered by the county for  industrial or commercial businesses.

Whale said the township has gone to great lengths to encourage industrial and commercial development, but the proposed charges are “certainly going to discourage it.”

Green agreed, adding the township tries to direct non-residential development to Drayton and Moorefield, but the proposed charges make those areas the least desirable locations in the municipality.

“But what flexibility do we have?” Whale asked, noting when it comes to development charges, the township cannot charge more than its projected capital costs – but it cannot run a deficit either.

Green suggested perhaps a flat fee for non-residential de­velopment would make more sense, yet he added it is unclear  if the township can do that. He suggested council delay passing the development charges bylaw – originally expected at its next meeting on Sept. 8 – until it can get more information from Watson.

“Doing it right for the sake of a month [of delay] is worth it,” Green said, adding the township is not “under the gun” to pass the bylaw.

Givens said that is not exactly true, given that the township has already surpassed the five year mark between de­velopment charges reviews, as outlined in the Development Charges Act.

Nonetheless, Givens said he would enquire about the following with Watson and Asso­ciates officials :

– if the township can charge a flat fee for non-residential development;

– if the township can ex­empt industrial but not commercial businesses from development charges; and

– if urban areas can be exempt from non-residential charge.

Green said Givens should also ask how having no industrial and commercial development charges would affect residential charges.

“That’s your starting point, in my opinion,” Green said. Givens said he would get back to council with some answers on the matter.