By Stew Slater
With big-ticket items like an expansion to the water treatment plant and a second water tower already identified as possible future necessities, the Town of St. Marys will host a public meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27 as part of its regular Council meeting, to receive input into proposed changes to the Development Charges that would help pay for the work.
A background study about the proposed changes was first released almost a year ago and, at the time, the Town gathered a list of names of people who wanted to receive updates about the process and invitations to future input sessions.
“It’s primarily developers and builders in town,” noted Treasurer Jim Brown in an interview earlier this week. He added the group has been invited to four meetings since the background study was first released.
Also during that time, an engineering consulting firm delivered a Master Servicing Plan to the town. Both the water treatment plant upgrade and the additional water tower — along with other servicing enhancements — were identified in that Plan.
The Plan “looks at the services we’re providing, along with anticipated growth, and makes some predictions about what infrastructure we’ll need to have in place,” Brown explained.
None of the projects is anywhere near approval. In the case of both the additional water tower and the water treatment plant, the town would have to undergo an Environmental Assessment prior to moving forward.
The most recent changes made to the Development Charges bylaw came in October, 2009. That version of the bylaw states its provisions expire in October, 2014, unless it is repealed by Council at an earlier date. But with the Master Serving Plan now in the hands of the Town, Brown says they’re operating under “an interim Development Charge rate” until a new one is approved.
After the Nov. 27 public meeting, it’s expected that an amended Development Charges bylaw will be brought before Council. “It will be Council’s decision to bring in the full charge or something other than that — whether they wait, or phase it in over time,” Brown said.
He noted the Nov. 27 meeting is public, so “I’m sure we’ll hear from some of the builders and developers.”
Indeed, it seems likely Council will hear from those involved in the building sector; a letter to the Town — which was printed in last week’s Journal Argus — from St. Marys resident Steve Stacey, who works for a local building supplies company, argues, “should these fees be increased, housing starts will decrease dramatically, to maybe a handful per year — a tremendous loss of tax revenue, and the growth of the community will become stagnant.”
Others from the public are also welcome to speak; copies of the background study and Master Servicing Plan can be obtained from the Town Hall, on the Town of St. Marys website, or by contacting Brown at 519-284-2340, ext. 217.