Playground costs cause friction; developer must pay portion

While the price of playground equipment might be causing a bit of friction, councillors here are not backing away from their decision to have a local developer pay part of the cost for it.

Following a letter received from developer from Robert Wylie, council considered re­pealing that requirement. It wants $25,000 for parks equipment to be paid by the developer.

“I was disappointed to hear council’s decision not to help fund the playground equipment requested for our Toronto Street subdivision,” Wylie said. “I realize you feel this might set a precedent but I was under the impression that this was to be a partnership between us [the developer] and the Town of Minto. I agree a playground is a good idea but given the size of this development, $25,000 is a very large investment.”

Mayor David Anderson said he was called by Wylie, who indicated his belief is council was considering a partnership with the municipality for the $25,000, rather than the $25,000 being the developer’s share.

Anderson said the developers have already gone through considerable expense bringing the project forward.

Deputy-Mayor Judy Dirk­sen wondered if partnerships could be explored if the resolution passed, or if it was defeated. She asked what timeframe council had to work with.

Clerk Barb Wilson said, “It’s getting down to the short strokes,” meaning the development agreement is almost in place.

Council had to decide whether or not to enforce the requirement.

“My thought is that when we approved the requirement, we had a reason for doing so,”  Dirksen said. While she understands the developer’s concern, “I still think it is a really good idea that they contribute to­wards the playground equipment.”

Councillor Barb Burrows pointed out even if council sticks with its original decision, $25,000 will not adequately cover the costs of playground equipment.

“We’ll still be kicking in money later on,” Burrows said. She also noted the money requested was not up front, but after a certain number of properties are developed.

Burrows said so far, the municipal partnerships have been with service groups, not developers, who are there to make a profit. “I think we’ve been fairly liberal as to how the payment happens,” she added.

Depending on how sales go, the payment might be made in the next five or 10 years, or next year.

Anderson said he told Wylie the town is not looking for money until the project is three-quarters sold.

Councillor Wayne Martin contended the main issue is not the playground equipment, but additional costs incurred as the project progresses. Although council’s policy requested a park allowance, that request now includes additional fencing around the park and the playground equipment.

Martin suspects that the ad­ditional costs could be in the range of $100,000.

Dirksen asked what would happen if the resolution is repealed and then extra funds are needed to provide the equipment. She suggested if the municipality does not have a signature now, there may be no obligation by the developer at a later date.

Burrows pointed to developments in the Miller Crescent and Old 81 Grand Trunk areas.

“There is no greenspace and no sidewalks. I think we need to keep looking forward and keep developers accountable,” she said, referring to other developments where signed agreements are in place and the developers are not fully ad­dressing their obligations.

Anderson suggested that perhaps an open ended agreement could be developed where, after three-quarters of the lots are sold, the town and developer would share in the costs of the playground.

Burrows pointed out that if one looks in other areas, developers are being required to put in playgrounds and walkways to make the areas more family friendly and accessible.

“Personally, I thought that was where we were heading with our strategic plan, but I could be wrong,” she said.

Treasurer Gord Duff noted that work on  the Clifford Rot­ary Park a few years ago cost roughly $40,000 and the muni­cipality has spent over $150,000 for playground projects in conjunction with local service clubs.

“If we are doing it right, it won’t be cheap,” he said ex­plaining the costs are not just for the playground equipment, but the installation.

He said now is the time to ensure the funds are available.

“If it’s not done now, there would be trouble trying to en­force it five years down the road.”

Clerk Barb Wilson added that if council chooses to re­scind the motion requiring funds for playground equip­ment, other developers will ex­pect the same treatment.

She agreed with Duff about the potential expense of building playgrounds.

Dirksen suggested that in five years, $25,000 might sound like a good deal.

Martin however said this is the third development for this individual, and each one has been treated differently. He said $100,000 in added expenses in a small town development can be an issue.

Council’s 3-2 decision was to stick with its original resolution. Those in favour of keeping the agreement were Dirksen, Burrows, and councillor Tammy Reimer. Councillors Martin and Rick Hembly were opposed.

When asked what happens now, Wilson said the requirement will be part of the subdivision agreement.