A Saanich councillor says “developers and lobby groups” are shaping policy in Saanich in promising to oppose any future relief of development cost charges.
Calling herself a “guardian of the taxpayer,” Coun. Nathalie Chambers said the municipality can no longer subsidize developers, as council prepares to receive a staff update on development cost charges.
Saanich council earlier this year delayed three readings of a new bylaw, which would have raised development cost charges (DCCs) following last minute lobbying from the development community.
Council — with Chambers opposed and Coun. Colin Plant absent — also asked staff to estimate the cost implications for Saanich if the municipality were to delay implementation of the bylaw by six months, 12 months, 24 months and 36 months following adoption of the bylaw. Provincial legislation requires that Saanich delay implementation of the new rates by 12 months for projects already underway. Councillors also asked staff to bring back information about the length of time that staff need to process developments.
Saanich defines DCCs as fees collected from land developers on a user-pay basis to fund the cost of growth-related infrastructure such as sanitary sewers, transportation, and storm drainage as well as parks. While Saanich has continued to scale the proposed increases, they would nonetheless be significant. Under the current proposal, Saanich would charge $11,542 in DCCs for a single residential home outside of Cordova Bay — up from $4,809 for the same lot.
Adam Cooper, director of development for Abstract Developments, Travis Lee, president of Tri-Eagle development, and Greg Gillespie, development manager for Mike Geric Construction, had all asked council to delay implementation of the bylaw by three years. Gillespie said developers accept that DCCs need to rise. This said, he warned of rising costs without an implementation delay.
“We believe council does not wish to delay housing, and we also believe that council does not want to inadvertently increase the cost of housing, and that is exactly what is going to happen without a delay in implementation,” he said. “It’s not about profitability, but about project viability. If projects are not profitable, they are not viable.”
Chambers, however, said granting developers a break on DDCs would hit current taxpayers in the pocket, and burden future generations with sub-par infrastructure. “We need immediate implementation [of DCCs],” she said.
While the financial impact of any future DCC relief remains unknown, Chambers suggests that mere discussion of the topic points to the undue influence of development community. “It is open season for developers,” she said. “I do not see affordable housing been built in Saanich, but I see developers and lobby groups driving the bus.”
Chambers’ critique of the development community is the latest salvo in a long-running row.
Led by its executive director Case Edge, the Victoria Residential Builders Association (VRBA) has been a vocal critic of Saanich’s decision to raise DDCs against the backdrop of complaints about Saanich’s processing time and perceived interference on private property. VRBA has been especially critical of policies that Chambers has championed. Saanich, for its part, has promised to improve response times.