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Discount stays on charges to develop homes in Prince Edward County

Prince Edward County council supports extending a discount on development charges for the next 18 months.

Council hosted a public meeting Wednesday night as it must update and adopt a new bylaw before the current one expires in March.

The 50 per cent reduction for residential development was due to phase out Jan. 1, 2019. Council agreed it should be extended to the end of September, 2019.

Developers Eric DenOuden and Graham Shannon, and Wellington resident Rick Conroy made deputations to council.

“We need homes,” said Conroy. “We need more residents, more taxpayers. It’s about the survival of our schools, of our hospital, of our long-term care facilities, our roads and our waterworks.”

The municipality collects development charges when a building permit is issued and fees go toward paying for infrastructure – roads, fire, libraries, etc. Costs not funded by development charges are funded through the tax levy, user fees or other sources.

Conroy noted the last two Census reports tracked the decline of the County’s population and noted the seriousness of reversing the trend, noting that “between development charges and a tax base, you are always better off with growing your tax base. Development charges occur once and the tax base pays every year.”

“The most important thing we can do is compete for new residents, for new taxpayers. It is my view that is the County’s sole priority because everything else for our community flows from it. To do this we must make it easier for folks to settle here and that means promoting and encouraging new home building.”

Conroy noted positive signs of encouragement with increased building in the County the past few years but stated “they are only signs. We cannot cross our fingers and hope for the best. We certainly can’t put more hurdles in front of the folks we need to build new homes.”

He said that since the County introduced development charges in 2008 and expensive connection charges, builders moved operations to neighbouring Belleville and Quinte West. When council cut development charges in 2013, the market began to rebound.

DenOuden, president of Hilden Homes, said builders and developers share common interest in the growth of the County.

He said last year’s 105 housing starts created 228 on-site jobs, paid out $13 million in wages and $87 million in investment value.

“We are together, corporately, a huge industry and we have a huge influence. I’d like to see all of us – municipal leaders, staff, builders and developers and others work together for a common goal and to achieve more housing so desperately needed here in Prince Edward County.”

He stated there are not enough serviced lands in Prince Edward County to build on.

“We are paying way too much when there is a lot available. There’s a lot of land in Prince Edward County and there are a lot of builders who have invested big dollars in it – we have trouble getting it to fruition. There are so many challenges and obstacles – from all three levels of government so we have a chokehold on land we can develop.”

Land he did purchase here a few years ago with affordable housing in mind, he said, is “stuck in a quagmire” with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

“We have to do a bat count, a whip-poor-will count, we can’t cut the trees – that project is gone,” he said lamenting that with the studies and reports and the cost of sitting on the land (in an urban area with water and sewer) “We got stuck in one study and that has taken a life of its own. I’ve put it on the back burner and I’m working on something else.”

Shannon, president of Sandbank Homes, shared messages from other developers noting difficulty launching projects in the County due to servicing costs and communications.

“At this point several new developments are on the horizon; planning and engineering processes are under way – mainly as a result of the basket of policies that has been put forward (by a committee of builders, developers, the public and County staff) to kickstart building. The key point here though is that none of these new developments are actually shovel-ready… All sides need to work together for future development.”

Regarding affordable housing, he described frustration with a recent $3 million affordable housing project which he personally invested $400,000 and the provincial and federal governments, $700,000.

“The County received $152,000 in fees and charges so my question would be is the County committed to affordable housing? In that deal, the County and the affordable housing residents were the winners.”

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