Province rejects DCC bylaw

File Photo.

Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) is going back to the drawing board as the province rejected a development cost charge (DCC) bylaw that was submitted for approval in August, citing it was not yet in line with legislation or the best practice guide.

The purpose of the bylaw is for developers to pay for the costs associated with expanding utilities and roads to service new development.

The delay comes at an inopportune time for the municipality as expensive water supply upgrades are needed soon to keep up with the pace of development in the community.

“We still want to move this forward quickly as there are still projects in the planning process that we hope will be contributing to these capital costs,” said Mayor Al Raine.

At an Oct. 16 meeting council rescinded the second and third reading for bylaw 0120 to allow for changes required by the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs to be made, most significantly to a proposed 25 per cent reduction in rates for the first year and the inclusion of unconfirmed grants in the rate calculation.

“The municipality planned to phase in the costs so it wasn’t a total sudden hit (to developers),” said Raine. “But unfortunately the province rejected that, saying we had to factor that discount into the municipal budget. And we obviously don’t want to do that.”

Rates were based on a 20 year time frame of continuous development and now reflect 100 per cent of the cost of future planned infrastructure, which totals over $23 million.

The charge for a single family residential home is $2,551.47 per bed unit, so a six bedroom home would be just over $15,000 with multi-residential units, such as condos and townhomes, slightly less per bed unit. The commercial space rate will be $46.15 per square meter.

Projects which already have a building permit have paid a connection fee, which was established after the purchase of Sun Peaks Utilities by the municipality in February. Prior to the takeover, connection fees and the capital costs of domestic water and wastewater systems, as well as the distribution system, were built into the price of the lot by Sun Peaks Resort LLP (SPR), who then owned Sun Peaks Utilities.

The new rates have also been calculated without factoring in future grant money, although Raine stated he is optimistic they will receive funding from other levels of government for the required upgrades. When the municipality receives grants it can rewrite the bylaw with lower amounts and after that point developers would pay a lower fee.

The expansion of the wastewater system has provided Sun Peaks with adequate capabilities for the next couple of years, however domestic water supply is the next concern. It will be more complicated as to meet the coming demand the municipality must rely on surface water which will require a more sophisticated water treatment plan than for aquifers, which currently supply the community.

Engineers have warned Sun Peaks must not only be prepared for increased demand, but a potential system failure on one of the current aquifers, and in case of large wildfire situation.

SPR has applied for permits to build a new, larger snowmaking reservoir so the current one can be used to meet future water consumption demand. The municipality has purchased a water treatment plant for the existing reservoir. This arrangement will take care of potential issues for the foreseeable future.

“None of this is cheap and that’s why the municipality has embarked on the DCC program to get funding in the bank for some of these items,” said Raine, adding the new treatment plant and pipes were an unexpected hit at $1.4 million.

“We were told by the engineers we really had to have this system in place for the upcoming winter or there’s a risk we could run out of water if we had some bad luck.”

Raine said they hope to have the new bylaw in place for January. Council granted a second reading but the province has stipulated there must be a repeat public meeting to discuss the changes before there can be a third reading and it can be resent to the province for approval.

He said he expected there would be some debate on council regarding the fate of an estimated two dozen properties that were purchased from SPR prior to DCC implementation, but do not yet have building permits meaning they would be charged for services again.

Councillor Darcy Alexander voted against the motion and did not respond to request for comment from SPIN.

Other changes included removing an exemption for public spaces such as churches, removing storm drainage projects as they didn’t qualify and allocating the one per cent existing resident fees to come from taxes or fees which will total around $233,000 over
20 years.

“It all gets down to an issue of fairness and I think council is working hard to tread that middle ground where what we are doing is fair to the community and and fair to developers,” said Raine.

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