LETTER: Regarding "Rossland Chamber of Commerce Supports Economic Development"

Ken Holmes
By Ken Holmes
September 3rd, 2009

Dear Editor,

I have been involved in the DCC issue for the past 5 years and do not recall ever being told that “…these costs (Development Cost Charges or DCCs) are needed to look after old infrastructure around town” as stated in the article by the Chamber of Commerce. DCCs are only intended to cover growth related infrastructure costs and “looking after old infrastructure”, which I infer to be maintenance or replacement of existing infrastructure, is a cost that has to be borne by all taxpayers.

Regarding the suggestion for a deferral of the proposed DCC increases and the suggestion of a “phasing in”. Perhaps the writer of this article is not aware that DCCs have been at less than 25% of what they should have been since the DCC bylaw was passed in late 2004. The writer should also be aware that the consultant’s DCC report, issued over a year ago, includes a recommendation for a six-month ‘period of grace’. Furthermore, the last City Hall newsletter suggested that it could be another year before the changes are in place (assuming the proposed bylaw changes are approved).

I would suggest that 5 years of low DCCs should be enough of a “break” for real estate developers so why now should an additional “phasing in” be suggested or considered? The “glacial pace” of dealing with the DCC issue has provided sufficient “phasing in”.

There should be no “sticker shock” as suggested in a comment. Real estate developers (must) have known since late 2004 that they were getting a “break” on DCCs when City Hall initially set them at $2400 for a single family dwelling.

This assumes of course that they did their due diligence when the real estate “boom” started in Rossland. Engineering consultants’ reports available at the time that the DCC bylaw was written contained sufficient information on the cost of growth-related infrastructure projects to show that that the DCCs were set very low relative to all the infrastructure needs to service the planned developments.

Rossland taxpayers should not be subsidizing real estate development by paying for growth-related infrastructure. Our taxes are amongst the highest, if not the highest, in the province, which in itself is a deterrent to young people looking at moving to Rossland. We are facing future costs to maintain or replace old infrastructure and adding an additional tax burden of growth related infrastructure costs could be the “last straw”.

The Comment uses all the buzzwords about “positive economic development” and “sustainable growth”…. Who wouldn’t want that? However, the question should also be asked, what are we trying to sustain? During most of the 34 years I have lived in Rossland, the population was relatively stable at around 3800 people. It didn’t change much through economic recessions in the early 1980s, 1990s, the economic slump in 1995 – 1996 and the ‘dot-com’ bubble bursting in 2000. It didn’t change much also as a result of the areas principal employer, Cominco, reducing its workforce from about 3500 to about 1500.

However, since real estate development took off about 5 years ago, house prices have risen sharply, there has been about a 15% increase in the number of residences and a 10% reduction in the population. Is this what we are trying to sustain? Is there a cause and effect relationship? I don’t know. However all the “hype” around real estate development at Red Mountain about 5 years ago caused a rapid increase in house prices coinciding with the start of a decline in population. Being in the top ten percentile of taxes in the Province will also likely have an influence. So what exactly are we trying to “sustain”? I can’t even get a haircut in town anymore as the barber has moved out along with other businesses. Empty second homes don’t sustain downtown businesses and schools!

Ken Holmes
September 1st 2009

Categories: Letters

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