Council calls on province to return to principle of making “growth pay for growth”

Development charges under review for the first time since 1997

Oakville Council is calling on the Province of Ontario to return to the principle of making “growth pay for growth” in its response to the provincial Development Charges in Ontario consultation document. The town highlighted several current restrictions and limitations in the Development Charges Act (DCA) such as ineligible services, mandatory discounts and service level restrictions that have resulted in the town only recovering 80 per cent of the cost of growth-related infrastructure. Currently, this funding shortfall has to be made up by the existing tax base in order for the town to maintain its infrastructure in a state of good repair.

“Over the past eight years, this Council has made its position very clear that growth should only take place if it is economically and environmentally sustainable,” Mayor Rob Burton said. “Development charges should ensure that new development covers the costs of servicing the land and building the infrastructure expected by residents.”

Capital infrastructure ranging from municipal buildings to cultural facilities and hospitals are ineligible for development charges, yet these elements are critical to meeting the needs of a growing community. As well, mandatory discounts reduce the amount of costs the town can recover on its capital investments. For example, net capital costs covered by development charges ranged from 36 per cent for transit, 80 per cent for fire protection, and 86 per cent for parks and recreation. This funding gap increases the financial challenges for municipalities in designing public services and infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population.

“The province has underlined the importance of investing in public transit in alleviating gridlock in the GTA,” noted Mayor Burton. “Without a change to the way transit is treated under the DCA, it will be financially impossible for municipalities to create and operate the level of transit needed to achieve this goal.”

The provincial review also noted that concerns have been raised about the transparency and accountability of municipal practices for spending of section 37 (density bonus) funds and asked for ways to address this problem.

“Our Livable Oakville Official Plan not only sets out clear and concise policies on where and how section 37 can be considered, but also sets out the procedure to ensure clarity and transparency for every step of the process,”  Burton added.

The town submitted its detailed response to the consultation documents to the province in early January. The province has not yet indicated when proposed new legislation would come forth.

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