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OPEN LETTER: DCCs--Get Informed, Get Involved

Dear Rosslanders,

This is an update on the Development Cost Charges issue, which I presume you are all interested in, since what happens will eventually impact your property taxes (and if you're a renter, I'm sure you know that when property taxes go up, so do rents.) I'm dividing this report into two parts: what City Council is doing about DCCs, and what other groups in town are doing.

COUNCIL ACTIONS:

Over a year ago, Council receive a report from a consulting firm it had hired. The report said, in essence, that the current DCCs being paid by developers are so low that they were not covering the cost of extra infrastructure that will be needed to support those new developments. It recommended that in order to cover those costs for future developments (nothing to be done about the ones already finished), the DCCs ought to be raised significantly. The Council at that time did not want to raise the DCCS so it simply ignored the report. The current council (or at least some members of the current council) was worried about downloading development-related infrastructure costs onto ordinary homeowners, so it reviewed the report, then passed a motion asking the consultants to draft a city bylaw based on their recommendations. (To read the report and see exactly what the consultants recommended, go to City of Rossland website, click on City Hall, click on City Departments, scroll to Engineering, click on Development Cost Charges. When the window opens click on "Draft DCC Background Report July 10th) You will by now have heard that the report recommends raising the DCCs to $13,000 or $14,000 per unit. That is the upper limit, the price imposed on single-family dwellings at Red Mountain. The DCCs for a big townhouse at Red Mountain would be only $9095. To encourage more affordable housing, the DCC for a Red Mountain apartment of less than 50m2, or a secondary suite or a Non-profit seniors, would be only $4547.

That's at Red Mountain. Within the City of Rossland, and at Redstone, the proposed DCCs are: $8624 for a single detached dwelling, $5692 for a townhouse or apartment bigger than 50 m2, and $2846 for a an apartment less than 50m2, or a secondary suite or a Non-profit seniors unit. Incidentally, building permit value excludes the lot price. So if, for example, a house is built on a $150,000 lot and the value of the building permit is $200,000 for the construction, the result is a home of $350,000 WITH NO DCC's REQUIRED. The bylaw is being prepared now and should be ready by October (or maybe November). When it comes back to Council, it will be debated. Some parts of it may be approved, and some not. Or the whole thing might be rejected, and it might be decided to keep DCCs low. Council itself is divided on this issue. Andy Stradling, Kathy Moore, and Laurie Charlton want to see the DCCs raised to cover those infrastructure costs, but some on Council want DCCs left low. Mike THOMAS, who is our city engineer and probably the single most knowledgable person at City Hall about Rossland's infrastructure, supports the consultant's report and agrees that DCCs ought to be raised. So what will Council do when that draft by-law comes back to the table? That's going to depend a lot on what the citizens of Rossland do between now and then.

CITIZEN ACTION:

1. The Developers. According to the councillors I have spoken to, developers are "hammering" them to (a) leave the DCCs low; or (b) if they do raise them, raise them less than what the city's consultants have recommended, and don't put the new by-law into effect right away. 

2. The Chamber of Commerce. The Rossland Chamber has proposed (in an article in the Telegraph) that raising the DCCs be phased in over time and that the "phasing in" not even start until the economy improves. It's not clear why CC members feel that citizens having picked up 2/3 of development infrastructure costs for the past five years wasn't enough of an advantage, but it does seem to be advocating that the breaks continue. 

3. The Rossland Stewardship Society (ROSS). This group is opposed to allowing developers to go on downloading infrastructure costs onto ordinary Rossland taxpayers. Therefore the Stewardship Society supports the DCCs being increased to a level that will cover future costs of all infrastructure required by their developments. Stewardship members do not feel that the development of high-end resort properties is particularly helpful in maintaining Rossland as a HOME town – that is, a  town in which amilies can afford to buy homes and raise their children here. Stewardship members are on the same page as those working to keep Rossland schools open, in the sense that they believe that if we lose  our schools we will lose much of what defines us as a community. Keeping  home prices and property taxes affordable is seen by Stewardship members  as essential for attracting families who will bring in the child  population need to keep our schools from being closed.

If you want to lend your voice to the DCC debate, you might want to get active in one of the above groups. Which one is right for you probably depends on which side your bread is buttered on. Or to put it less selfishly, which side you think your town's bread is buttered on. The developers, who keep saying that without them Rossland is going to dry up and blow away, will I'm sure be glad for your support in keeping the DCCs low. The Chamber of Commerce has an office downtown, and if you believe developers need the concessions they recommend in order to maintain Rossland’s “image,” you know how to contact the Chamber. If you don't share their view, if you are concerned about the kind of  "growth" that results in properties unaffordable for the average family,  a transient population, and many dark houses, and instead, want to see  policies that make it easier for families to buy homes and raise their  children here, then you might want to link up with The Rossland Stewardship Society. You can participate in the ROSS by contacting Bill  Micklethwaite at: a7a34574@telus.net

If you just want to be on the ROSS mailing list (or if you definitely don't want to be), drop me an e and I'll pass that info on to the person  who maintains the master list. If you're on the mailing list, you will  be notified of the Rossland Stewardship Society's annual general  meeting, which I think will be in November. This is a broad-based group  made up of young people and retirees, professionals and tradespeople, native-born Rosslanders and relative newcomers. Everybody is welcome,  and it's up to each person to decide what their level of involvement  will be – or if they don't want to be involved beyond being kept informed as to what the group's up to. What it is up to – that is to say, what issues it decides to inform itself about and advocate – is decided by the members.

Cheers,

Rosa Jordan

Rossland

[note, this is the second posting of this letter with minor changes made at the request of the author in the interests of clarity--ed.]