By Tim Kalinowski
Redcliff’s new Offsite Levy bylaw had second reading at last Monday’s council meeting. However, it will be awhile before the bylaw is ready for third and final reading, as council was persuaded to consult more widely with the local development industry on how the bylaw would be applied.
Malcolm Sissons of I-XL, a major landowner on the east side who would be heavily impacted by the application of the current Corvus model for determining the rates, spoke to council about some of his concerns at last week’s public hearing.
“So far we haven’t had a lot of consultation here in Redcliff, said Sissons. “The Director of Planning and Engineering indicated in a letter to me there would be more consultation forthcoming. I look forward to that. The Corvus model works, but it is basically a spreadsheet. So whatever you put into it comes out the other end based on the formulas that are there.”
He cited several instances where he thought the model had failed in his past consultations with the City of Medicine Hat on its offsite levy rates.
“The output depends on population projection,” he said. “At the time population growth had been stagnant for three years. It (the future population projection) was actually inaccurate at the time they started modeling. Above all, there is a need to be accurate with this bylaw. That’s the essence of it. It’s not a political discussion, it’s a matter of being accurate with the model.”
Sissons also hoped Redcliff would follow suit with Medicine Hat and add a municipal assist component to the formula. Medicine Hat currently has quite a high rate for their offsite levies, but offsets some portion of that by giving money back to local developers through a municipal assist program.
“I think that is something that should be discussed at some point by (Redcliff) council,” said Sissons. “Ultimately, whether you have a higher fee and then an assist, or a lower fee; you still want to be competitive. If you are not competitive with Dunmore, or the (Cypress) County, or Medicine Hat, that’s going to impact what occurs here, or there.”
Sissons acknowledged council’s need to think long-term through the application of an offsite levy fee, but stressed the final rate shouldn’t unduly handicap local developers.
“There is a cost in development (for the Town), but if too much is loaded on to new development it will simply drive development into other jurisdictions… We (developers and the Town) want the same things. We want a fair system. The developer gains a better understanding of what costs are included in the levy and the Town gets a reality check on what is considered to be cost-competitive.”
After the public hearing ended, Redcliff council went to the second reading vote on the Offsite Levy Bylaw.
Coun. Eric Solberg acknowledged Sissons concerns, but also wanted to ensure his vote for further “consultation” before third reading would not just be limited to the development industry.
“This (vote) is pursuant to getting both private sector and public consultation, correct? It won’t be coming back to us for third reading until that has happened, correct?” he asked.
Solberg was assured that was the intent of the vote from both town staff and Mayor Reimer.
Coun. Dwight Kilpatrick also wanted to make sure such consultations were done correctly.
“Is this all going to be done in house? Or are you thinking of contracting some of this out?” he asked staff.
“We are trying to get example policies from other municipalities,” explained Municipal Manager Arlos Crofts. “That hasn’t been as easy as we would have liked. And there may be some funds we might use in terms of our planning budget (for outside consultation).”
Crofts stressed staff had been in contact with other Redcliff landowners through the entire process of coming up with the bylaw as well as the Medicine Hat chapter of the Urban Development Institute, a non-profit association representing the land development industry.
“We have used those contacts consistently throughout this entire process,” said Crofts.
Council seemed satisfied with staffs’ intentions to continue to consult broadly prior to the third and final reading of the Offsite Levy Bylaw, which will come back to council in the near future. Council then passed second reading of the bylaw motion unanimously.