Letter: TransLink DCC flat rate is unequal, unjust

Why should Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows pay same as Vancouver?

Letter: TransLink DCC flat rate is unequal, unjust

Editor, The News:

Re: TransLink’s proposed flat-rate development cost charge bylaw.

In the past year, the City of Pitt Meadows, the City of Maple Ridge, and Metro Vancouver have all worked to increase their development cost charges. To keep pace, TransLink is seeking to implement its own development cost charge bylaw.

In December 2017, the Mayors’ Council and board approved the framework for the new TransLink DCC.

The DCCs are set to begin in 2020 at $2,100 for a single family dwelling, $1,900 for a townhouse, and $1,200 for an apartment, and increase the following year to $2,975 for a single family house, $2,470 for a townhouse, and $1,545 for an apartment.

What troubles us is that the DCCs are proposed to be a flat rate across Metro Vancouver. We feel that the flat rate is unequal, unjust, and ill-suited for the purpose. Why, we ask, should an apartment in Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge pay the same DCC to TransLink as an apartment in downtown Vancouver or near Metrotown in Burnaby?

Those areas enjoy vastly greater service from TransLink and have far greater property values to absorb the new tax.

In addition, cities and municipalities serviced by SkyTrain enjoy a notable increase in both commercial and residential density around SkyTrain stations, which results in greater tax revenue on significantly higher assessed taxable values and density.

Through email correspondence with a TransLink representative, we were told that the Mayors’ Council has presented the following justifications for the regional flat rate:

• “The Phase One and Two Plan transit expansion investments are broadly distributed around the region.”

• “Transit infrastructure generates benefits to new development that are not based solely on the municipality that the investment is located in.”

• “All new development benefits not only directly from transit investment, but indirectly from reduced roadway congestion, increased goods mobility and better air quality.”

• “A uniform rate approach is administratively simple.”

• “Drawing justifiable boundaries for tiered rates would require extensive technical analysis that is likely to be contentious and challenged on the basis of fairness and market distortion concerns.”

• “It would also likely mean that funds collected in specific areas would be required to be spent in those areas, despite the benefits not being aligned with the location of the investments.”

These arguments are unconvincing when viewed from Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

We offer the following responses:

• While the TransLink expansion investments are distributed around the region, they are not distributed equally. A B-Line bus is not the same as a SkyTrain line, for example. The TransLink expansion plans in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are decidedly modest.

• Can TransLink quantifiably demonstrate the benefits to new development in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge that it claims the new transit infrastructure in other regions will provide to our region?

• While we agree that new development benefits from transit investment and reduced roadway congestion, it does not benefit equally across the Lower Mainland. It is unclear to us why this argument justifies a flat rather than tiered DCC rate across the region.

• The argument that a uniform flat rate is administratively simple also falls flat in our view. Metro Vancouver already has a tiered system for its DCCs – it is by all accounts uncomplicated and easy to administer.

• Additionally, Metro Vancouver has already drawn regional boundaries and provided a template for a tiered system. The process does not require extensive technical analysis and need not be contentious or unfair, as asserted by the Mayors’ Council.

The proposed flat rate for DCCs is unfair to outlying communities such as Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, who have long seemed to be an afterthought with regard to regional planning and transit service.

TransLink must consider the voices of all its serviced communities, not merely the closest or richest ones.

Ken Holland, president

Chamber of Commerce serving Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows