Maple Ridge to add amenity rec fees

Without such a revenue source, the expense of putting in a park or a community centre could fall on to the general taxpayer.

Maple Ridge wants more money from developers and builders so its residents can have more parks and playgrounds, community places and space to run around.

It hopes to do that by tapping into the profit realized when property is rezoned, redeveloped and resold, in what’s known as a community amenity contribution.

Council told staff Oct. 27 to come up with a policy that will charge developers a percentage of the increased value of a property that results from development. That extra cash then will pay for some extras in a new neighbourhood.

That usually has a recreational focus, anything from a community centre to playing fields.

The percentage charged can vary widely, but is usually levied after developers already take a 15-per-cent profit margin.

The strategy is already in wide use across Metro Vancouver with only Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Port Moody so far still without any area-wide recreation-amenity charges.

“It’s really important. We’ve been building in these areas where there’s been no reserve set aside for these amenities that are really required,” Mayor Nicole Read said Monday.

Without such a revenue source, the expense of putting in a park or a community centre could fall on to the general taxpayer, if they’re built at all.

Read said neighbourhoods need their own recreation spaces, such trails or sports fields, so people can enjoy where they live.

“Those are the kinds of things that make a community complete and that’s what we need. We should have been collecting this from the beginning.”

For instance in Surrey, the city figures out what recreational assets a new suburb needs and the costs for that, then works backward from there and charges the developer.

“We haven’t been doing that. We’ve been building in some of our areas for a long time, not charging amenities,” Read said.

Surrey has levied recreation-amenity charges since 1995. And Vancouver has done so since 1959, following a policy that can scoop up about 75 per cent of the increased property value resulting from development, while first allowing developers a reasonable profit.

Staff have been told to write a policy that will suggest a percentage for the recreation-amenity charge with specific steps on its implementation and bring it back to council. It’s not known how much potential extra money the new program could raise for the city.

After staff write a policy, assuming council approves it, a public hearing would take place and input from developers received.

Council, two years ago, approved another approach at getting more developer dollars for parks and playgrounds when it put in a density-bonusing program in north Albion. Developers pay an extra $3,100 per lot in return for being able to increase density to the next level allowed in the official community plan.

That will remain in place, while the new percentage charges applied on top of that.

The first version of the policy proposes to have a new recreation-amenity charge applied city-wide, excluding the downtown, and exempting any special needs or affordable housing projects.

Planning director Christine Carter said council wants the revenues from the recreation amenity fees to benefit the areas from which they come, instead of creating one reserve fund.

“They want us to break it down by neighbourhood.”

Developers like that approach as well because they can use the future improvements, additional parks, or trails or sports fields, in their marketing campaigns for new housing developments.

“We’re pleased that we got clear direction from council.”

Most developers already factor in such costs when planning a project, she added.

In 2014, senior city finance staff told the previous council that the costs of new servicing new suburbs are not covered by the property taxes that are generated from those areas.

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