Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Development Charges: Paying for Growth

Over the next few weeks you may be hearing a more about “Development Charges.” What’s that, you ask?

Under something called the Development Charges Act, the Province allows Municipalities to collect fees to help offset the “costs of growth.”

You see, new growth – residential, commercial, or industrial– applies additional pressures on municipal infrastructure. For example, new residential development areas often require additional water and waste water services. Or, if hundreds of new homes are built, new residents place pressures on roads and other Town services – everything from recreational services, to library usage, to fire protection. This “pressure” means additional costs to add trunk water lines, widen collector roads, or renovate or build new facilities.

Many years ago, an existing property tax-payer would have paid for additional municipal infrastructure and services that were required for new developments. Many felt that that lacked fairness, and that “new growth should pay for new growth.” On the other side of the argument, many felt that new growth should pay no more than its fair share.

Thus, a balance is sought where new growth should not create a financial burden on existing residents of the community while the existing residents should not enjoy a financial benefit at the expense of new residents.

The Town of Pelham has been setting and collecting development charges on development and re-development for some time. Development Charges were also previously known as Impost Fees or Capital Levies and have been in place at the majority of Ontario municipalities for several years. The current Development Charges by-law was adopted by Council on August 16, 2004 after an in-depth Development Charges Study conducted by an independent consultant. The by-law lasts for five years and is set to expire this August.

Some steps have already been taken to update the Town’s Development Charges by-law.

First, pursuant to the Development Charges Act, an independent consultant has prepared a Background Study – which was made publicly available on March 6.

Second, staff met with representatives of the development industry on March 9 regarding the Background Study and the proposed new by-law.

Third, a Public Meeting has been called for Monday, March 23 at 7:00 PM in the Council Chambers of Pelham Town Hall to present and obtain public input on the Town’s proposed by-law and underlying background study.

If you are interested, please join us that evening. For more information please contact the Town Clerk at 905-892-2706 or at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Keeping An Open Mind

Perhaps you heard that the Honourable Gilbert Parent, Member of Parliament for 22 years and former Speaker of the House, passed away last week. You may recall that he represented Pelham in the “Niagara Centre” Riding from 1997 to 2000.

Mr. Parent began his career in education and when defeated in 1984 by the Mulroney sweep, he returned to teaching. In 1986 he taught me religion at Notre Dame, and I fondly remember many of his lessons.

One of his lessons stood out for me this week. I recall Mr. Parent analyzing the quote “The problem with an open mind is it lets in too much garbage.” He explored the quote by asking “If you truly have an open mind, how do you know an idea or concept is garbage before you scrutinize it?” Instead, he taught about the virtues of keeping an open mind. Only then should one weigh all the options.

And, so I try to keep an open mind on all matters – including recreational facilities.

That’s why I reported to Council last week about a recent meeting between representatives of Welland, Niagara College, and Pelham.

You see, Welland’s studies indicate that they need either a three-pad arena or a four-pad if they stop using the Welland Arena. While they preferred to locate it on property they own at Woodlawn and River Road, their second preference was Niagara College.

Why potentially the Niagara College Campus? Since the College already hosts several community facilities— Niagara Centre YMCA, Children’s Safety Village, NRP Training Facility, Ball Hockey International – there is a potential for a similar free-property arrangement.

So, if Welland needs three-plus ice surfaces and if Pelham needs more ice, a Niagara College location could have other potential advantages: usage by students during off-peak hours, sharing of existing parking, appeal for fundraising and funding from other levels of government, and efficient use of public resources and funds.

It also would have potential challenges: complex negotiations and agreements, the potential “loss of identity”, and a potential resident backlash.

While such a potential partnership is clearly not the only option, I wanted to ensure that our minds were still open to the concept. And, while Welland is moving quickly, Pelham’s own Recreational Facilities Committee still has to formally analyze this and other options.

Rest assured that I will continue to keep my mind open and analyze all options for your benefit and that of your Pelham neighbours and friends.