By Tim Kalinowski
Redcliff council will hold a public hearing on its newly proposed Offsite Levy Bylaw at its May 9 meeting. Redcliff has never had an Offsite Levy Bylaw in place before, but James Johansen, director of planning and engineering for the Town, says its an initiative whose time has come as the community prepares for future development and growth.
“It forces the town to look at a long-term picture of infrastructure and start looking at making decisions based on ensuring we have capacity in our systems for future growth instead of finding out all of a sudden that pipe, for example, should have been two sizes bigger,” he says.
“I think that (planning) is a huge benefit to the municipality. I think it is also of benefit to the citizens of Redcliff because it does provide a system to have fair and equitable funding of infrastructure projects that support growth and make the developers pay their fair share of those projects instead of taxpayers having to absorb them all.”
Offsite levy bylaws are commonplace in larger municipalities. Essentially offsite levies allow a community to estimate the cost of future infrastructure development in roads, water system upgrades, sewer upgrades and stormwater management, and then apply a set fee for developers coming in to build to cover off some portion of those costs.
“You are projecting out for 25 or 50 years on some of these projects as to what they are going to look like. So you are pushing yourself as a town to do a lot of long-term planning and to think about future needs. So hopefully that reduces the costs for everybody in the long run,” says Johansen.
Generally, only new developments are charged offsite levies, but Johansen says there may be some exceptions when an already established development is seeking to upgrade or expand out of its original dimensions and necessitates major infrastructure upgrades. He admits the Town hasn’t quite worked out yet where that trigger point as to when offsite levies would be applied under these circumstances.
“That’s where we have to get into developing the policy a bit,” he says. “At what point do we say, gosh, it’s reasonable to apply the offsite levy to this project. What’s the threshold?”
The newly proposed offsite levy bylaw uses the CORVUS software system to determine which portion of offsite levies would be applied in which zones of Redcliff. Under the system the town is brown down into 18 zones. The basic offsite levy for water and roads in all zones would be $79,938 per new development. And some zones have been designated for additional offsite levy charges for sanitary of anywhere between $7,212 to $51,882 per new development where major infrastructure work is expected in that regard. And some zones would also be charged anywhere between $3,851 up to $77,717 per new development for stormwater treatment and management.
Johansen feels these levies are in line with other communities Redcliff’s size throughout the province.
“With offsite levy bylaws, and you are comparing yourself to other municipalities, it’s better not to say we are too high or too low.”
He also defended the high offsite levy rates to be charged in certain zones. For example, a new development in Zone 13, (within the old I-XL lands which are encompassed in the Eastside Area Plan), would cost a total of $209,537 compared to one in Zone 12, (near the municipal water works), which would cost only the base rate of $79,938.
“Yes, your offsite levies are going to be more 9 (in Zone 13), but this infrastructure has to be built. So you can either pay the offsite levy or we could take the project out of those being funded by the offsite levies. But if we take it out, when you go to develop, you are going to build that infrastructure anyway at a higher cost as an onsite infrastructure upgrade as part of a construction agreement.”
Some major infrastructure projects have been pulled out from being covered by the offsite levies. On example is the Eastside Area Stormwater holding ponds. It seems an odd exception, but Johansen says there is a reason for it.
“The general rule of thumb is you look at: Does this project benefit future development. If a project really doesn’t have a tie to future development, then it’s not an offsite levy project… And there are lots of projects where it is just cheaper to build a project and not put it into the offsite levies.”
“The second test you apply is the offsite project to the benefit of more than one zone or developer. In the case of these storm ponds (on the Eastside), my feeling is the decision was probably made that the storm project itself didn’t appear to be to the benefit of multiple developers so a decision was made not to put them into the offsite levy. That’s my speculation. So they will be paid for out of the developers own resources.”
For more information on the new Offsite Levy Bylaw visit the town of Redcliff website. All documents pertaining to the public hearing can be found in the April 11 town council meeting agenda package.
Note: Article was corrected to state public meeting is May 9, not May 6 as previously stated.