Town sets 33% break for development fees to offset county hike

As Wellington County ups development char­ges, the Town of Minto will be giving local businesses and industries a break from local charges.

Councillors here recently ad­opted recommendations from its economic development and planning committee that the municipality lower its development charge for industrial and commercial properties by providing a 33% exemption on the charges.

Minto is also adjusting the price per acre for land in its industrial parks to “starting at $15,000.”

During the economic development and planning committee meeting held earlier this year, there was a discussion on development charges and a review of comparable charges from competing  municipalities. Mayor David Anderson pointed out that increases in residential development charg­es have not appeared to have an effect on residential growth.

However, Anderson and members of the economic development committee were not in favour of Wellington County increasing development charges for industrial and commercial properties. (Those were approved on Jan. 31.)

Anderson wanted to discuss the possibility of a two-tier de­velopment charge which would see different rates for the north and the south of the county.

The committee concurred that development is much harder to come by in the northern portions of the county and higher development charges would make it even more difficult.

Economic development officer Belinda Wick-Graham pointed out the recent business retention and expansion survey revealed that 76% of the businesses identified development charges as a barrier to expansion or development of business in Minto. In an effort to encourage more development in the town, the committee recommended adjusting the lower tier charge through a 33% ex­emption.

At the same time, while discussing industrial land and comparing other municipalities, Wick-Graham pointed out that Wellington North sells its serviced land for $15,000 per acre, which is $20,000 less than Minto’s asking price.

She added that Wellington North’s development charge is $0.79 per square foot, which also made it difficult for Minto to compete.

The committee compared the philosophies of selling the land for less and getting more industry into town, or selling it for more and having it sit empty.  It was unanimous in its recommendation to lower prices of municipally owned lands. However it also identified the value of highway commercial properties and recommend those should be sold at their appraised values.

After Clerk Barb Wilson offered to have the highway commercial property in Pal­merston appraised, the committee agreed that “a starting price of $15,000” would allow Minto to better compete with neighbouring municipalities while giving it room to sell highway commercial properties at a higher price.

As council reviewed the recommendations, Treasurer Gord Duff said the whole issue stemmed from discussions at the upper tier – and the decision to raise development charges across the county.

“The county will do what it feels is in the best interests of the county as a whole – from south of the 401 to Clifford,” Duff said. “However, the economic development committee feels that action is not in the best interests of northern Well­ington.”

He considered the committee’s recommendation as a com­promise – by offsetting the increase at the county level with a decrease at the local level.

Anderson added that while Minto cannot change the county portion of the charge, it can alter the local amount.

“We still have a lot of in­dustrial land to market,” he said, adding that Minto needs to be competitive to bring de­velopment to town.

As for the land price issue, councillor Larry Agla said, “Like it or not, we are in a com­petition with our neighbours selling industrial land. We might think this is a wonderful place, but developers need a good reason to come [or expand locally].”

At the same time, Anderson said council needs to be cautious in altering land prices.

He explained that the town invested heavily in acquiring and servicing that land.

Wick, however, said that in Wellington North land is selling at $15,000 an acre  while “ours is $35,000. [Changing the price] would put us back to a level playing field.”