No fees for development in Petrolia until after election

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Heather Wright/The Independent

Housing developers will still get a break on fees in Petrolia – at least until the next election.

Petrolia, unlike the majority of municipalities in Ontario, does not charge development fees. It is a set fee based on the type of housing being built charged to the developer to pay for new infrastructure which will be needed in the future because of the development. For example, when new homes are built, municipalities often put parks in the community, including equipment which costs money to buy and maintain; development fees can help pay that cost instead of existing taxpayers.

At the Nov. 8 education session, council heard from BM Ross and Associates which outlined how it would look at the future needs of the town and come up with a fee for developers to pay. The firm would complete the work – which could have taken a year to do – for $27,500.

But councillors were not ready to spend the cash. Councillor Ross O’Hara noted there is a lot of development coming in the next year.

O’Hara says he’s not “opposed totally” to development charges but now is not the right time to implement them.

“We have a lot of things on our books, a lot of developments that could happen, and I would rather look at this year-by-year and maybe next year down the road,” he told council.

Councillor Grant Purdy agreed, asking “Why do we need to spend that kind of money?” on a consultant at this time.

Councillor Wade Deighton wondered what has changed over the past five years “that now, all of the sudden, this is a hot topic.”

Mayor Brad Loosley explained that more than a decade ago, when there wasn’t a lot of housing development in town, the council of the day wanted to make the community more attractive to developers. It waived permit fees and decided not to follow the lead of other municipalities and take advantage of new provincial legislation allowing municipalities to charge development fees.

“When we look back, I think for years, it did work as far as attracting (developers) because now we’re competing with development all over in Bright’s Grove, along the lake and along the (St. Clair) River. I do believe it did help at that time.”

Petrolia now has the second highest growth rate in Lambton – second only to Plympton-Wyoming in the last census. The other municipalities now seeing major growth already have development fees. Plympton-Wyoming now charges nearly $11,000 for every single family home built.

Council decided to put off the decision to the next council which will be elected in 2022 – saving the $27,500 fee.

However CAO/Treasurer Rick Charlebois reminded council the development fee report is a complex document that has to be done by a consultant. It could take a year or even two he said. And then, he added, much of the development now on the books would not be charged any fee at all.