Mapleton approves three-year phase-in of planning fee increases

MAPLETON – Planning fees in the township will rise by about 17.3 per cent annually for the next three years, council has decided.

While substantial, the increases are dramatically scaled down from those proposed in a report by Hemson Consulting presented at a Jan. 16 public meeting.

The report indicated building permit fees in the township need to rise by 18% across the board, and planning fees by 84% on average in order to achieve full cost recovery.

After council members expressed concerns about the impact of such steep increases, council deferred a motion to proceed with a bylaw and tasked staff with producing a report aimed at finding cost mitigation and efficiencies.

Reports provided by staff at the Jan. 30 council meeting provided options for implementing the increases.

A report from chief building official Tim Swartzentruber indicated while some recommendations from the Hemson report could be implemented, the building department “would not be looking to increase the fees” beyond a previously approved increase in the town’s existing fees and charges bylaw based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Although council simply accepted the report as information, Mapleton CAO Manny Baron told the Advertiser the CBO’s recommendations would be reflected in an updated fees and charges bylaw.

A planning department report provided council with four options for addressing the revenue shortfall:

  • continue with the approved 2024 fees and charges (status quo) resulting in a revenue shortfall of $280,000;
  • move immediately to full cost recovery;
  • focus on direct cost recovery, thereby eliminating the indirect costs from the analysis, resulting in shortfall of $92,000; and
  • full cost recovery using a three-year phased-in approach.

Under the phased-in approach, the report suggested fee increases of 32% in 2024, followed by 20% the following year and 15% in 2026.

However, council decided to await a report on a hybrid option suggested by CAO Manny Baron involving phased-in increases based on the $92,000 figure representing the deficit after removing indirect costs over a three-year period.

A report presented by planning and development director Michelle Brown at the Feb. 13 meeting proposed an increase of 32% in 2024, followed by increases of 10% in each of the following years, to attain full “direct cost” recovery in 2026.

The report notes an amount equalling the annual CPI change be added to the increases to ensure the cost recovery target is reached.

“The report does not add an awful lot compared to what I brought forward for our last one, other than council’s only direction was to take all of the indirect costs away, which really lowered everything by 15%,” Brown told council.

“So I put together a chart in a phased-in option, which would take us to instead of 100% full cost recovery, down to 85%.”

“The full cost recovery model ensures that the applicant is paying the full cost of the service and does not impact the tax base,” the report notes.

“Although there are several actors involved in the process, council has requested to remove the indirect costs associated with internal actors and phase in the remaining costs to operate on an annual basis.”

“I do like the phased-in (increases) over three years. I think that’s much better than putting it all at one time,” said Mayor Gregg Davidson.

“We can play with these numbers council, if you if you want to. Right now it’s 32, 10 and 10 for the increase over the three-year period.”

Councillor Martin Tamlyn said, “The 32% in one year, it’s a big jump, but I understand the cost recovery is needed. I do like the three-year increment.”

Tamlyn asked if the increase “can be more balanced over those three years.”

“We haven’t had cost recovery for a number of years, so if council wishes to do an even split over two or three years that’s a possibility, it’s something for council to choose,” said Davidson.

“But remember that the costs that we don’t recover get put on the tax base.”

A motion by Tamlyn to split the proposed increase evenly over the three years was approved by council.

“So it’s 17.3333 (%) this year, next year 17.333, plus whatever CPI is, and then it’ll kind of just accumulate that way until the third year, until we’re done,” noted Baron.

A bylaw to implement updated fees and charges for various services provided by the township, effective April 1, was approved by council later in the meeting.