The city of Maple Ridge took the first step toward raising the fees it charges developers to build in the city after a cantankerous meeting.
On July 26, city council debated raising the city’s development cost charges. During the same meeting, before the DCC bylaw was approved, council processed applications for several developments. As they did, councillors Ahmed Yousef and Gordy Robson several times asked staff to calculate how much money the city was “leaving on the table” by processing the developments prior to raising the fees.
Robson said it amounted to $15 million for the evening’s applications.
Mayor Mike Morden remarked the increase in development fees would be passed onto homeowners with the sale of properties.
Eventually Morden refused to allow the councillors to ask staff how much would have been collected for a housing project under the new bylaw, compared with current rates.
Robson protested: “This is the people’s business, I think the people should be able to hear….”
“Overruled council Robson,” said Morden, cutting him short, and adding that the issue should have been raised in committee.
“I will comment that this is 1,107 units going through, and advancing tonight, either to third reading, or to second reading, and if you add them all up, it’s $15 million we’re leaving on the table, that the citizens of this community are going to have to pick up in the future,” said Robson.
DCCs cover costs of roads, sewers, drainage, water works, buying parkland and developing parks.
Looking at comparisons, Maple Ridge charges some of the lowest DCC rates in the region. A single family lot is assessed $22,465, where Surrey charges its developers $46,000, Richmond $42,000, Langley Township a proposed $39,000, and Coquitlam’s charge will rise to a proposed $60,000.
Staff proposed DCCs increase from $22,465 per lot to $41,000 for houses, for an increase of 83 per cent. There would similarly be increases ranging from 77-80 per cent increases for townhouse and apartments. There are also proposed rate increases for commercial and industrial developments.
After the rate is increased through a bylaw amendment, any applications already in process pay the current rate.
Yousef said council should give the bylaw both first and second reading, rather than just first reading, to approve it faster.
“I really would much rather see this go to first and second reading, so we can start to collect some of those charges to build our community, and get it to reach its potential, rather than delaying it any further,” he said.
Coun. Judy Dueck responded that the bylaw will proceed at the same pace, regardless of whether it got one or two readings, and will be back before council soon after an August break. She said it is important for the city to get feedback from builders and other interested parties.
Coun. Chelsa Meadus said city hall must be able to give builders good service, if they are charging more in fees.
“In my business, if I try to charge the most amount of money, but I don’t give my customers value and efficiency, they’re going to go somewhere else,” she said, adding the city is working to improve its processes.
She also speculated that “election positioning” was prompting Yousef and Robson to say they want to charge developers more, and infer others on council do not. She said there were no efforts by councillors to prioritize this issue.
“I think to spend tonight giving examples of all the money we’ve lost, you should look yourself in the mirror, and ask yourself why this wasn’t a priority to bring up to move forward on the work plan earlier,” said Meadus. “Because trying to berate others for not doing it, I think is unfair.”
Morden noted 2017 was the last time DCCs were reviewed, and said council should do a more regular review. He added that the city must give developers better service during the process.
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