Town council considers off-site levy changes

“When we collect the money, we’re actually saying we’ll do the work.” Acting CAO Betty Quinlan

Ponoka town councillors received a presentation from Jim Duckworth of Tagish Engineering during a committee-of the whole meeting April 15 to understand off-site levies, costs that need to be charged to developers as more and more land is opened to either residential or industrial development.

Duckworth said the biggest reason towns have off-site levies is to pay for infrastructure capital costs that will meet a growing community’s needs.

He said the Town of Ponoka should include water, sanitary sewer, wastewater treatment, storm water services and transportation levies. These costs are generally paid for by developers and offset the costs taxpayers face as infrastructure grows.

Proposed off-site levy fees the Town of Ponoka’s should consider, according to  Duckworth, are as follows:

• Water, $20,185

• Sanitary Sewer, $33,083

• Storm, $2,999 (this number varies when applied to other sectors of Ponoka)

• Transportation, $8,704

The current levies appear out of date in comparison:

• Water, $2,000

• Sanitary Sewer, $2,000

• Storm, $2,471

• Transportation, $3,200

Councillors were worried these numbers would affect developers’ decisions to bring business to Ponoka. Mayor Rick Bonnett wondered if bringing businesses to town was already a challenge, how the council would be able to entice more.

Acting CAO Betty Quinlan said the numbers are a true reflection of the costs Ponoka will face as it grows, especially with the current bylaws being as old as they are.

The last two times the Town of Ponoka updated its bylaws on off-site levies were in 1978 and then in 1987.

Quinlan suggests that most developers know that municipalities are charging these levies and it is a cost of doing business.

Betty Jurykoski, planning and development officer for the Town of Ponoka, said off-site levies help town planners prepare for the future. She said the Town of Cochrane recently had 900 homes develop in one year.

“Where would they be if they weren’t managing off-site levies?” Jurykoski asked.

Quinlan added that most developers prefer to see off-site levies because it puts the responsibility of large improvements in the hands of the municipality. “When we collect the money, we’re actually saying we’ll do the work.”

She said updating the off-site levy bylaw would be planning for the next 50 years, which could save taxpayers millions of dollars over that time.

“We’re not penalizing our developers, we’re pre-planning,” added Jurykoski.

As this was only an information session, council made no decisions on Tagish Engineering’s proposal.