By Tim Kalinowski
Offsite levies going up in Cypress County hamlets?
Offsite levies in Cypress County’s hamlets were on the table for discussion at last Tuesday’s council meeting. Patrick Boyd and Brent Robertson of MPE Engineering and Jeffrey Dowling, Planning Supervisor for Cypress County, have been studying the issue for several months to give councillors some idea of what they could potentially charge for offsite levies going forward.
Offsite levies can only be applied to recover the cost of infrastructure on new developments, and only on specific things such as sanitary sewer and drinking water provision, storm sewers, road upgrades and municipal land purchases associated with creating this infrastructure. Municipalities can also project potential future infrastructure costs when determining today’s offsite levy rate. All developments currently under way would not be affected by any offsite levy increase, should council decide to go that route in 2016.
Dowling informed council that currently only Dunmore and Seven Persons, among the hamlets, have dedicated offsite levy rates. Dunmore uses a per hectare rate which comes to about $21,000 per hectare for offsite levies and Seven Persons has a per lot rate which works out to $7,150 per lot for development.
In other hamlets developers are only charged $3,000 in connection fees for water and sewer.
Patrick Boyd of MPE then took over and explained the methodology and considerations his firm took into account when setting possible maximum offsite levy rate projections in Dunmore, Irvine and Walsh. Seven Persons was not considered as part of this study.
Taking into account various future infrastructure needs slated for these three communities through 2025, Boyd said Cypress County could legally charge $142,271 per hectare in Dunmore, $55,200 per hectare in Irvine and $116,155 per hectare in Walsh if they wanted to recover the full cost of their infrastructure expenses in those communities going forward. He also presented a comparison of other communities around southern Alberta’s rates such as Medicine Hat’s average ($220,702 per hectare with a 40 per cent rebate back to developers), Redcliff’s ($78,500 per hectare), Taber’s ($74,000-$113,000 per hectare and Brooks ($18,000-$36,000 per hectare).
However council was skeptical that applying these maximum rates to Dunmore, Irvine and Walsh could be realistically charged. A vacant lot in Irvine, for example, currently goes for about $20,000-$25,000. The maximum legal rate, if applied, would be far beyond the price of the lot itself.
Council then directed Dowling to call around to a few other jurisdictions to determine how and why they came up with the numbers they did for their offsite levies. Council suspended debate on the subject until after Dowling bring back the required information to a future meeting.
Cypress County 2015 budget has large surplus
Cypress County Corporate Services director John Belanger informed council that the County had posted about a $3 million surplus in 2015 which can be turned over the pay the County’s projected $404,000 deficit in 2016. Final numbers were still being crunched, but last year’s surplus should easily allow the County to keep taxes flat in 2016 as hoped and expected, and without having to make steep cuts. Belanger was also in the process of going through the County’s major equipment purchases to see what could be put off for another year or two to find even more savings.