"Complex" DCC debate sent to committee for in-depth discussion

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
February 15th, 2012

Council’s decision regarding a draft bylaw to repeal DCCs (Development Cost Charges, bylaws 2241 and 2315) has been delayed until council can discuss the issues in a Committee-of-the-Whole (COW) meeting to be scheduled for later this month.

Coun. Kathy Wallace made the motion to receive the entire packet of information and draft bylaws—including a bylaw to implement “Service Capacity Connection Charges” (CCCs) to replace DCCs—at a COW for more informal discussion between councillors and city staff.

“DCCs are a very complex matter,” Wallace said. “They’ve certainly generated significant contention in the community. I would like to avoid [DCCs] generating similar contention in the near future.”

Wallace said councillors have already started to field questions from concerned citizens who perceive that council is “against DCCs” and “doesn’t want developers to pay”—perceptions she would like to allay with sufficient time for consideration.

“There is no imminent need or urgency to deal with this quickly,” she said. “Given the complexity of it, council needs to understand very well what is presented here.”

Council voted unanimously to refer the DCC-CCC issue to a COW. Coun. Cary Fisher did not participate in the discussion due to a “perceived indirect conflict of interest.”

DCCs are charged when a landowner receives approval for either a subdivision or for a building permit that “authorizes the construction, alteration or extension” of a building that will contain more than four “self-contained dwelling units.” (A dwelling unit is defined by a separate entrance and a single cooking facility with attached rooms and living spaces.)

The original DCC bylaw (2241) was adopted in December 2004, and was amended with bylaw 2315 in February 2006 to increase the DCC fees. No further changes have been made since that time.

Presently the developer of a single detached dwelling is charged $3,329. A duplex is charged $6,658. Townhouses and large apartments are charged $2,197. Hotel and motel units and small apartments are charged $1,099. Commercial spaces are charged $16.65 per square meter.

The use of DCC funds is restricted by the B.C. Local Government Act to infrastructure costs. City staff report that “accumulated DCCs available for future projects” include $51,032 for roads, $426,805 for water services, and $118,205 for sewers.

In May, 2009, an AECOM consultant presented council with a recommendation to substantially increase DCC fees. City staff were set to drafting an amendment, but were delayed for two years due to concerns over unrealistic and risky growth projections—the faltering economy—and the inclusion of projects in the DCC list that “can not be justified for approval.”

According to the bylaw, it is important that DCCs “a) are not excessive in relation to the capital cost of prevailing standards of service in the City; (b) will not deter development in the City; and (c) will not discourage the construction of reasonably priced housing or the provision of reasonably priced serviced land in the City.” When new DCCs are imposed, an “inspector” from the Ministry of Finance must approve the change.

The AECOM option and four others were presented to council in July, 2011. Two options included a Service Capacity Connection Charge (CCC) bylaw to be applied in addition to DCCs, or to replace DCCs. Council directed staff to investigate the potential of CCCs, and the present report before council is the fruit of this labour.

CCCs would be applied to all new construction, regardless of whether it was a subdivision or not. Where DCCs are charged as soon as the subdivision or building permit is approved, CCCs would only be charged when water, sewer, or drainage services were connected.

If DCCs were repealed without another fee to immediately take its place, at least two conundrums arise: 1) the city loses a revenue stream to contribute to much-needed infrastructure improvements, and 2) developers who have previously paid DCCs are put at a disadvantage.

A recent letter to the editor by Ken Holmes investigates some of these confounding issues.

Categories: GeneralIssues

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