Maple Ridge council missed an opportunity to collect about $16 million from property developers over the past five years – money that could have been put toward amenities such as community centres, parks and fields, according to Mayor Nicole Read.
“I ran the numbers on the amount of money that would have been collected for the city, and I was appalled,” Read told councillors at Monday’s workshop meeting.
She told council it is important the city gets started with its Community Amenity Contribution Program as soon as possible.
Council had debated an amenity fee based on a “lift” formula, which would take a percentage of a developer’s profit.
However, on Monday, more councillors spoke in favour of a flat fee, proposed by staff at $5,100 per unit for townhouses and apartments and $7,500 for a single-family residence.
From 2011 to the present year, development in the city has created an average of 244 residential lots per year, 134 townhouses and 140 apartments.
Based on those averages and the proposed flat fees, the city would have garnered amenity fees of $3.2 million per year.
Coun. Gordy Robson spoke in favour of flat fees and said council needs to move on the issue to end uncertainty in the development community. The fees, over time, would pay for amenities such as new fields, arenas and a pool, he said.
Robson suggested $5,100 for houses and $3,100 for condos and townhouses.
“I think getting at it is the biggest thing,” he added.
“The ‘Robson Rates’ are reasonable,” Coun. Tyler Shymkiw said.
“We don’t want to end up disincentivizing development.”
Coun. Craig Speirs rather see flat fee for homes set at $10,000 per lot.
“The development community has gotten away with a lot over the years,” said Speirs. “It’s time to pay up.”
The issue was sent back to the development community for comment, and the city will also consult with the Urban Development Institute.
Speirs said he would not value feedback from developers on what the rates should be.
“I don’t want to be a beggar in my own house.”
Other cities have amenity fees, which they collect based on various systems. Coquitlam charges $3 per square foot.
Read noted that Maple Ridge is unique in the Lower Mainland for not charging developers amenity fees.
“We are very late to the party,” she said.
“This council has been very eager to see that put in place, so we can start catching up.”
Local realtor Bob Terepocki said one large developer has already walked away from buying an 11-acre parcel in Albion because of the uncertainty created by the potential new fees.
“It will scare developers away, if they get too high,” he said outside council chambers on Monday.
“The problem is, as a developer, you buy a piece of property, and all of the sudden you have this great huge amount you have to pay the city, and three years down the road … what happens if the market does die? Is the city going to share in the loss, if there’s a loss?”
However, he was pleased to see council moving away from a rate based on lift, or profit.
“I don’t like the lift, I like the flat rate – a fair flat rate,” said Terepocki.
“We need to know sooner than later.”
His daughter and business partner Carla McColeman said council is on the right track.
“It’s important there’s clarity, and it’s expedited, and I agree with the comments made in council – there’s a risk of disincentifizing developers coming to our community,” she said.
Staff will bring a report back to council, with developer and public input, in the third week of January.