Bylaw to raise Squamish's development cost charges passes first reading | Squamish Chief

Bylaw to raise Squamish's development cost charges passes first reading

Oceanfront developer raises concerns that change could raise costs by 45% to 143%

Amidst concerns from one of the biggest developers in Squamish, a bylaw that may increase the amount of money the municipality levies from developers has taken a halting step forward.

Development cost charges, or DCCs, are collected from developers to pay for necessary municipal infrastructure that allow their projects to be feasible, such as roads, drainage, parks, water and sewage.

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Under the proposed bylaw, DCCs could increase anywhere from 45% to 143%, depending on the type of units being built.

On July 21, District staff recommended council pass three readings of the bylaw but council opted to only give it one reading.

A staff report said that rate increases were necessary, given the town's significant growth.

"As the community grows, so too does the need for additional growth-related municipal infrastructure," reads the report. "Existing water, sewer, drainage, and road infrastructure are strained with increased usage and demand from new development."

Elected officials voted 6-1 in favour of granting first reading and asking the municipality's economic development officer, Kate Mulligan to review and possibily suggest changes to the regulation.

Coun. Armand Hurford was the sole dissenting vote.

"This is a very complex model, and it is about cost recovery," said Hurford. "And I'm not supportive of this motion, because I feel that we're criticizing what it just a numbers game of what it costs to execute this required infrastructure."

The bylaw drew criticism from a representative of Matthews West, best known locally as the developer behind the oceanfront project.

"We would be remiss not to state that increases to the DCCs will have a negative impact on affordability in this community," wrote Carlos Zavarce, a development manager with the company.

"One, they reduce the value of land in proportion to the increases for those landowners holding bare or underdeveloped land. Two, they increase the costs of individual homes/units for projects that are under development.... We are and will continue to be strong supporters of a number of the initiatives the current council has championed — affordable housing, energy efficiency, smart growth, etc. — but, in the majority of cases these additional initiatives pass on increased costs to purchasers of new units."

The DCC increases hit industrial, commercial and institutional projects the hardest.

Industrial units would be charged almost $80 per square metre of gross floor area, which is a 95% increase up from about $40 back in 2015, which was the last time the bylaw was updated.

Commercial units would balloon to about $110 per square metre, which is 123% up from about $50.

Institutional unit rates would almost triple to $90 per square metre up from about $37 — a 143% increase.

There would also be increases to residential units as well.

Low density single-family units would cost about $18,800 per unit, up from about $13,000 — a 45% increase.

Single-family units on small lots would cost almost $16,000 per lot or unit, up from $9,100 — a 75% increase.

Townhouse units would cost about $10,600 up from about $ 7,000 — a 50% increase.

Apartments would be hiked up to about $80 per square metre, up from roughly $50 — a  69% increase.

Mayor Karen Elliott said she was concerned about the impact rate increases may have on industrial, commercial and institutional developments and thus wanted the economic development officer to take another look at the bylaw.

"I do think we have to take a holistic approach here, and we have some very specific goals around firm growth and achieving our goals around the sector action plan," said Elliott.

"And I don't want to see our [development cost charge] bylaw interrupt that. If there is a way to soften these increases to that sector and make it more palatable for the next few years. So that's why I want Ms. Mulligan's opinion."


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