Association pushes for new amenities policy in Saanich

Community amenities are contributions that developers and municipal governments agree upon as a part of a rezoning process

The president of a local community association wants the district to formalize its policy around community amenity contraptions.

“It is long overdue,” said Haji Charania, president of the North Quadra Community Association, during council’s December open forum.

“You must get a policy in place because we have lot of development coming,” he said.

A guide on the subject published by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development defines community amenity contributions (CACs) as contributions that developers and municipal governments agree upon as a part of a rezoning process.

“A change in use or an increase in density generally boosts the value of land, and provides the possibility of a financial benefit to the land owner, developer or local government. Increasingly, local governments and residents see this as a reasonable opportunity to help fund community amenities,” it reads.

CACs can take several forms including community amenities, affordable housing and financial contributions towards infrastructure that cannot be obtained through development cost charges, such as recreation facilities or fire halls. Local governments would receive CACs if and when they decide to adopt the respective rezoning bylaw.

CACs, in short, allow municipalities to receive something in return for granting developers zoning for their projects.

Municipal governments do not have the authority to require CACs as a condition of rezoning. Contributions must either come by the initiative of developers or emerge from rezoning negotiations.

Not all municipalities charge CACs, and municipalities charging CACs use different formula to calculate them.

The City of Victoria, for example, charges an amenity contribution equivalent to 75 per cent of the additional value of the land, as determined by an independent consultant. Other municipalities consider square-footage.

While CACs are becoming increasingly pervasive, especially in the Lower Mainland as municipalities are trying to manage the many challenges of growth, they have also faced criticism from the development community.

In November 2015, the late Victoria developer Brian Martin found himself at odds with the City of Victoria, when it was asking for an amenity contribution of $975,000 as part of his plans to build two 12-storey residential towers across Douglas Street from the Mayfair shopping centre. The necessary rezoning would have increased the value of the land by $1.3 million.

While the developer was not opposed to the amenity contribution, he questioned its amount, offering to pay $200,000 instead.

A position paper from the B.C. Chamber of Commerce also argued that CACs can reduce housing affordability by “significantly increasing costs and reducing the land available for sale,” throw up barriers for small developers, who do not have the capacity to amortize these cases, and delay the construction of new projects and jobs by creating red tape.

Charania said any policy must balance the interests of residents and the development community in proposing that future CACs should be equivalent to a figure between 25 and 50 per cent of the additional land value.

He stressed throughout his presentation that the district should consider CACs a high priority, a point echoed by Coun. Judy Brownoff, whose tone, however, also suggested patience.

Coun. Colin Plant agreed with Charania’s argument, but wondered whether he should have made his remarks since staff are currently reviewing various options.

“In that case, I apologize, but I think that is the wrong way to go about,” said Charania, who received support from Coun. Vic Derman.

“The issue is, we have referred a huge number of things to staff,” he said. The community, he said, has every right to remind council about ongoing concerns.

“I think it’s fair.”

 

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