Dec 14, 2015

City, developers reach deal on infrastructure costs; Taxpayers' share of 25-year plan $212 million, to begin in January

City, developers reach deal on infrastructure costs; Taxpayers' share of 25-year plan $212 million, to begin in January

---- Monday December 14 - by Natascia Lypny, The Leader Post (Regina) ---


Consensus: Developers and the city were skeptical it could happen.

But the two parties have gone back to the drawing table on the city’s phasing and financing plan for development, and come back with an agreeable proposal.

“We’re talking about a 25-year program that’s worth approximately $1.4 billion of infrastructure and who pays for that. So it’s a very significant achievement that we’ve got consensus with the development community,” said the executive director of city planning and development Diana Hawryluk.

Now to see if city council will bite.

In his annual address to the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Mayor Michael Fougere called this matter the “most profound issue” they will deal with. Council meets Monday.

The review of the plan, which lays out when new subdivisions can bebuilt and how the costs for infrastructure are shared between developers and taxpayers, has been in the works for more than a year.

When administration’s recommendations were initially presented to council, only one of nine developers supported them. Sticking points were the option of having rates specific to different areas of the city and developments planned for Regina‘s 235,000- and 300,000-population growth targets, the list of infrastructure projects that needed funding, water and waste water master plans being incomplete, and what exactly is meant by “growth pays for growth.”

Try reaching consensus again, councillors instructed staff.

“Both sides really listened to each other’s perspectives and we both were able to come to a compromise that met both of our needs in a way that we could accept the changes,” said Hawryluk.

The new model’s development fees are dedicated to projects that are required for growth but benefit more than one area, that is, broader system improvements. Meanwhile, developers will have to pay the full cost of projects that only service a single neighbourhood, and the city will contribute to projects that improve or add services.

The new policy also adds a system by which first-in developers can get compensated for infrastructure that eventually helps future developers. The new rates will be phased in over three years, growing to $451,000 per hectare by 2018.  The city says the fees will make up 4.5 per cent of the cost of a new home in 2016. Taxpayers’ share of the 25-year infrastructure plan is $212 million.

Because there’s not enough money to fund all growth-related infrastructure projects right away without using debt, the city has decided to prioritize water and waste water projects over transportation improvements.

Despite some developers’ objections, the new plan will be implemented in January, not after water and waste water master plans are complete. In the meantime, administration has used placeholders to anticipate what projects will be needed in the future. When finished, those master plans will influence future rates.

The city will be doing more research next year onappropriate rates for infill development, which was previously excluded from fees, and industrial growth.

Area-specific rates will be considered in the next review as well. As for which areas are being developed when, next year the city will continue with the remaining subdivisions on the 235,000-population list, and proceed with Rosewood Park in Coopertown and Westerra. Elmbridge, another chunk of Coopertown, will be addressed in 2018. Other areas must wait.

The city says limiting the number of neighbourhoods allowed to proceed at once encourages more full build-outs of those areas: The complete communities idea.

As for why consensus was important to the city, Hawryluk said,“At the end of the day, it needs to work for development community because they’re the ones that are building and growing the greenfield developments. … When we’re all on the same page, it makes life a lot easier as we’re moving forward.”

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