The Council meeting covered many issues, but the most compelling and clearly least understood was Item 9.3.
Council’s comments during Item 9.3 on the most recent council agenda got me thinking about how complex the issue really is. As a municipality, our Development Cost Charge (DCC) levies have not been changed since 1986. The reason for this requires some historical context. Municipalities and regional districts levy development cost charges on new development to pay for new or expanded infrastructure such as sewer, water, drainage, parks and roads necessary to adequately service the demands of that new development.
Development cost charges are calculated separately for each category of infrastructure: water, sewer, drainage, parks, and roads. Port Moody’s DCC’s have not been amended since 1986. DCC’s are fees or levies which may be imposed on new subdivisions and/or developments for the purpose of paying for the necessary infrastructure to service new development. During the time when Heritage Mountain and Inlet Centre were developed, there were different levies used to pay for the necessary infrastructure, namely the 286 Agreement Levy, and the 216A Levy.
The 286 Agreement was brought in to Port Moody in the early 1990’s and was the result of a provincial bail-out to avoid the bankruptcy of the City of Port Moody. The end result was that 2/3rds of the undeveloped land in Port Moody located on Heritage Mountain, was ‘given’ to Parklane to develop under a tight set of levies stipulated by the Province in what is known as the ‘286 Agreement’. The last remaining land was to be sold for the Neighbourhoods 3&4 developments. If you would like to learn more about this particular issue, I will refer you to the ‘Rollo Report’, which outlines the issues succinctly.This was to be the city’s insurance and was meant to beef up the land sale reserve for generations to come, but was later dedicated as parkland (Bert Flinn Park).
In addition, the city determined that the Inlet Centre area, where the new City Hall was to be located, would be developed using a very specific levy (215A), that outlined specific parameters around the new ‘high density’ developable area, as this area required a great deal of new infrastructure. In short, we have not needed to reassess the DCC amounts because most of the development taking place in the city was occurring in areas where other infrastructure levies were being applied. With the advent of Skytrain, came new visions for areas not considered within either the 286 or 215A areas, such as Moody Centre & Coronation Park.
The amount of a development cost charge for each infrastructure category is determined by dividing the expected infrastructure costs (required to service new development over the development cost charge timeframe) by number of new development units that will be served.
Separate development cost charges may be established for different classes of development, for example, residential, commercial, industrial and institutional developments. Charges may then be collected from developers either at the time of subdivision approval or at the issuance of a building permit.
All development within the geographic area of a development cost charge bylaw is liable for the charge unless exempted by statute. Such exemptions include places of worship and certain types of residential developments. We may also choose to waive or reduce charges for certain types of development, including not-for-profit rental housing, supportive living housing and for-profit affordable rental housing.
It is for this reason, that it is not advisable to try to compare the DCC’s of one municipality with another. Each municipality has its own circumstances. The size and population are not necessarily relevant. What is more relevant, and also more difficult to understand succinctly, alluded to above, is the age and context of the municipality, in relation to the new development that is taking place.
Why age and context? As municipalities consider their needs going forward, they must determine what infrastructure currently exists and when it was originally constructed. Cities should have schedules for replacement of infrastructure as well as an understanding of what will be required to service any new development. Location of new development plays a vital role in determining if there are synergies to be gained or needs required of new development to ensure that the infrastructure is capable of handling new development. Developments that occur in newly established neighbourhoods require less in the way of sidewalks, sewer, water, while developments that occur in areas where there is older or less robust infrastructure.
For Port Moody, the biggest contributor is the provision of new parkland. I am not convinced that we are using the right information to calculate this need. We are taking a statement from the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, which is primarily a document that looks at parkspace that is the responsibility of the city, and not including other lands within the city such as Belcarra Regional Park or Sasamat Lake area. The whole purpose is to determine, what amount of parkspace there is within the boundaries of the municipality. Not including these regional parks is incorrect. By conflating the funding responsibilities for parkland with an overall assessment for livability we are confusing the purposes of these two important, but distinctly different issues. We should not be using the ration provided in the master plan for this purpose, or for any purpose at all, other than information. A proper comparison of municipalities on the basis of parkland acquisition finds that those municipalities such as Burnaby and the District of North Vancouver, who include the regional parks in their calculations, have much lower DCC rates in this regard. But why compare – what we must do is consider the rationale behind some of the decisions being made.
To put it mildly, there is a lot to consider when looking at DCC’s for any municipality, and for Port Moody specifically, I believe some larger questions or presumptions that need to be revisited, before agreeing to any amount. I am very happy to reconsider this issue, provided that we revisit all the contributing factors which have led the process to date.
The inaugural meeting of council was held at 7:00 pm on November 6, 2018, in which the new council was sworn in. The day was quite long, for such a short meeting. In addition to the ceremony, it has become a tradition to take the council photos earlier in the day. We opted for an outdoor shot at Rocky Point Park, proceeded by headshots at City Hall at 2:00, so the day actually started much earlier than 7:00. It was a lovely ceremony, lasting just under one hour. Each member of council was given an opportunity to provide and address. The following is what I shared.
"Thank you Your Worship. I want to take an opportunity to congratulate and welcome everyone to what I hope to be a new era of cooperation and respect. I am proud to be a member of Port Moody City Council, and I am grateful to be given the opportunity to work with colleagues who are such strong advocates for this community. To my esteemed colleagues, know that my door will always be open to you as you work towards the goals that called you to run for office.
My priorities are to move forward with moderate growth, with a continued focus on climate action and environmental protection. My highest priority though, is to address our financial situation.
One of our fundamental responsibilities is to be stewards of our public assets, and to provide services to the community… to foster the economic, social and environmental well-being of the community. The fact is… we are increasingly vulnerable financially, with a continued reliance on taxation and debt to provide these fundamental services to our community. Past decisions have impacted the present financial situation, for good or for bad, and we must be willing to make a commitment to understanding and rectifying this situation, even if it means that some people won’t be happy with some of our decisions. I’m challenging each of my council colleagues tonight, to make a commitment to this issue, to understanding this issue and to working on finding solutions, no matter how difficult that might be.
Good governance must be our lodestar when making decisions. Our role is to oversee this corporation, using democracy and representative leadership as the tool. Fairness, due process, transparency… these are fundamental elements of ensuring that we as a body are operating appropriately. As we move through this term, we will be faced with decisions that effect peoples lives, and our job is to make those decisions based on what is in the best interest of the community as a whole, and sometimes that means some people will be unhappy … but it is our job, as a body, to maintain the public’s trust, as the government… to reconcile and heal any potential wounds that may be inflicted through a decision. This is good governance.
This is the seventh term for me. I am committed to being the best councilor and mentor I can be for the next four years. I have been on some great councils, and I know from experience, while council is not a typical team, we can work towards team-like behaviours - respect, empathy, inclusiveness, honesty, camaraderie… I know that if we embrace this opportunity, with this type of optimism, it will help us as a council, it will certainly help our staff and our residents as well. I look forward to serving the next four years with each and every one of you."
Councillor Meghan Lahti