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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Contribution Conflict

The following is with regards to something that has irked me to no end for years and that I have posted about before.  Now don’t get me wrong here I am not opposed to development; what I am opposed to is development that contributes little to the community and the benefit thereof.

This story and the quoted comment appeared in the D/N just over a week ago: Council aims to make development more consistent  This guest comment is also of interest as it talks about the Frank Ney era in Nanaimo and as you can see things have not changed. 
At the end of this I have placed a link to the last council agenda, pgs 47-50 deal with the above, and to the video thereof.  Check out the discussion by clicking on 8 b - DPRC - Amenity Contributions as well as my comments at question period. The decisions in the report were made by the Development Process Review Committee, see link, a committee comprised of council members and those who profit directly from development. 

In a city that is constantly falling millions behind on fixing its infrastructure; paying 2-3% and growing of its budget towards interest on debt; lacking funds to purchase large properties for parks, such as Linley Valley West or now the controversial Pioneer Park and only sees the paltry sum of approx $165,000 going towards its Housing Legacy Reserve fund each year, there is a huge need to increase revenue.
Rezoning of properties, small and large, is usually brought before council and touted as increasing density which is a core concept in the Official Community Plan.  This in and of itself is a good idea and will ultimately help create a larger tax base but in saying this the taxes it will create are by no means enough to eliminate the ongoing deficit caused by the costs to maintaining a large city such as Nanaimo.

 These new ‘policies’ are no different than guidelines that have been used for decades and are a cop out on the part of council.  Huge profits are made on larger developments; in many cases even before ground is broken. 
A perfect example would be the area of Cable Bay known as the OceanView Golf Resort & Spa. Land worth about 3 million dollars once rezoned by a previous council is now up for sale at 60 million.  Proposing 2500 homes the community contribution would be a paltry 2.5 million and if built the value, at an average sale price of $300,000 would far exceed the 60 million sale price of the property coming in at $750 million; this without even accounting for the value of the associated businesses that would surround the golf resort and spa. 

Sure Development Cost Charges will help with installation of sewer and water but will the increased taxes provided by the subdivision pay for upkeep over the years; I don’t think so.  Nanaimo needs to get more realistic with its community contributions.
Increased density is the catch phrase for many potential developments, Cable Bay and Sandstone being the largest examples, getting their rezoning pushed through council. Never mind that for these two, one could just as easily use the words urban sprawl as the outcome.

Another purported benefit the community sees is that of the community contribution on the part of the developer for the privilege of density bonuses and potential millions lining their pockets.  Sadly, Nanaimo’s amenity contribution is archaic, nay pathetic, to say the least. Based on $1,000 per unit, these contributions usually amount to little more than a tot lot.
Vancouver requires 20 per cent of units, or the equivalent in cash or land, go toward future social housing. Langford, with one quarter the population of Nanaimo, has a one-in-10 policy. Based on a $300,000 average home value, Nanaimo’s contribution will equate to only one-third of one per cent.

With rising unemployment, poverty and an increasing population, the need for social housing, parks, paying down debt and decreasing the tax burden on its citizens dictate the need for Nanaimo to do better – $10,000 per unit or 3.333 per cent seems a little more equitable commitment and while nowhere near that of Vancouver and Langford, it could see some of those potential profits trickle down toward real contributions to the community. 
Vancouver, Langford, Kelowna and many other cities require a far greater percentage for community contributions as should Nanaimo.  Monies raised through the process, far more significant if the contribution were raised to 5 or 6 thousand and still quite profitable for the developer, could actually be enough to add significant funds to the future purchase of parks, paying down debt, adding to the housing legacy reserve fund and yes even lowering city taxes.  I am not against development but it must come with a more realistic benefit to the community. 


 Development Process Review Committee

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