County changes approach to minor variance fees

GUELPH – Wellington County has approved a new approach to fees for rezoning, site plan and minor variance applications.

In October, staff recommended new charges for planning services.

County council supported the move towards setting new fees for rezoning and site plan applications in the amount of $6,580 and $2,280 respectively. However, the proposed fee for minor variance applications was deferred pending further review by staff.

A report to the planning committee by planning and development director Aldo Salis  and treasurer Ken DeHart notes the proposed minor variance application fee recommended by Watson & Associates was $4,090.

However, after review, the committee and others expressed concerns regarding the appropriateness of the fee relative to the majority of minor variances applications received by member municipalities (e.g. small residential construction projects requiring relief from required setbacks).

The report notes the level of involvement by county planning staff with local committees of adjustment on minor variance applications varies from municipality to municipality.

“Some of our municipalities request planning staff to attend all committee of adjustment meetings and present planning reports regardless of the nature or complexity of the application,” the report explains.

“Some municipalities request the preparation of planning reports, but do not require attendance or presentations to the committee. Some also request administrative assistance (e.g. notices and mapping).”

Fee based on effort

Given the varied level of effort required, staff recommended the fee for services not be a flat fee, but instead based directly on the effort provided, settling on a fee based on a standard hourly rate ($150 for 2020).

If planning staff are required or requested to attend committee of adjustment meetings, a standard meeting rate of $300 will apply.

Planning committee chair councillor Allan Alls said the new fees “reflect the amount of time county staff will be involved in each of the proposed areas. Which the committee felt was a fair way to do it.”

Fees for most other county planning services will rise two to three per cent in 2020.