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Use caution with new fees

(The following is a letter addressed to members of St. Marys Town Council. A copy was provided to the Journal Argus.)

Ladies and gentlemen:

Re: proposed changes to the Town of St. Marys Development Charges bylaw

I have been involved with this process for some time now, and I must say I am very much dismayed at the possibility the Town is even CONSIDERING a fee increase of this magnitude. To raise fees by a whopping 400 per cent overnight is, at best, irresponsible if not outright negligent.

I have sat in on several of these meetings and listened intently to the arguments for increasing these fees, most recently at the MOC with Councilor Pope in attendance (as an observer). To be frank, the data being presented, despite the fact it has been prepared by an engineering firm, does not take into consideration other factors, especially in regards to the wastewater treatment facilities. Several firms were represented, among them Meadowridge Properties, Thamecrest Farms, Stratford Builders Association, and several of our local builders. The indications from these very experienced and knowledgeable people, including Rob Taylor whom I have an enormous amount of respect for, pointed out several flaws in the data presented.

The long and short of it all, in my humble opinion, is that an increase of this magnitude will, without a doubt, kill new building starts in this community for several years to come. The potential loss in tax dollars far outweighs the increases in this very small area of development.

For example, the last few years we have built an average 75-80 new homes, per year. An average property tax levy would be in the $ 3,500 annually range, thereby generating approximately $ 87,500 for the first 25 years, per household. Multiply that number by 75 new housing starts for the year, and the tax revenue would amount to $6,562,500. That is just for one year of building starts.

Should these fees be increased, however, housing starts WILL decrease dramatically, to maybe a handful per year. A tremendous loss of tax revenue, and the growth of community will become stagnant. Add to that, the ripple effect.

And please do not underestimate the importance of this. When you throw a pebble in the pond, the ripples extend from the centre and keep going until they reach the edge of the pond. The ripple effect from this decision will be comparable to throwing a boulder in the pond, instead of a pebble. All of the local businesses will be adversely affected, including several of our tradespeople, who rely on new housing for a big part of their business.

Once again, the ripple takes over and that translates into local people being laid off and/or losing their jobs, which then effects our local economy as well. The builders will go elsewhere, so will their tradespeople. They will be spending their money in other towns.

Check with other municipalities that have increased their fees and you will be surprised to see that the majority had experienced a significant drop in new housing starts.

Having said that, I also realize that to do nothing is an even less desirable result for the future of Town. There is no doubt, based on the data for future cost predictions, that fees should be increased, and I do not contest that fact. However, the increase should be kept to a feasible amount and phased in over a set period of time.

I trust that as our elected officials, you will all perform your due diligence and research this subject with the utmost care and with the utmost respect for the future interest of our “Town Worth Living In.”

Best Regards,

Steve Stacey, St. Marys

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