Petrolia developers could face $10K legal charge

Proposed lots in a bush lot at Countryview Estates which recently the subject of an Ontario Land Tribunal hearing. It cost Petrolia $33,600. The town has now approved a $10,000 fee to charge back to developers involved in tribunal hearings to cover the town's legal costs.

Developers in Petrolia are about to get a big surprise.

Town council has approved the fees it levies for the services it provides. The cost of most recreational fees – like ice time and ball diamonds – are going up between two and three per cent.

But building fees are going up much more.

Clerk Mandi Pearson’s report to council shows all fees for building services will be going up 10 per cent. The town’s goal is to provide building services for the cost of providing them.

Those fees include everything from a $2,155 deposit and $1,385 permit fee to build a new home to nearly $8,000 in fees for a new apartment building.
Also included in the list of building fees which will go up 10 per cent are permits for home renovations, such as building a fence, deck or addition or installing a new fireplace.

But it is developers which face the highest fee in Petrolia.

A new fee has been added to the list – $10,000 if an Ontario Land Tribunal case is launched. The town’s fee schedule says it is “cost recovery of town legal fees for developer per case.”

Mayor Brad Loosley, reached late Tuesday, briefly explained it was to recover the cost of the legal fees at the hearings, before he ended the call without answering further questions.

Other councillors contacted by The Independent didn’t have a clear understanding of how the town came to the $10,000 fee, when it would be levied.

Petrolia CAO Rick Charlebois in an email late Friday said “Councils have been very clear that “growth pays for growth” and not the general taxpayer.  I heard about this idea at a municipal professional association session about a year or two ago.  The town’s cost for the one OLT hearing the town was involved with this past year was about $33,600.”

The town was recently involved in one Ontario Land Tribunal case with Elbee Investments which wants to build homes in a wooded area of Countryview Estates. Residents appealed the plan and won a reprieve in July.

Charlebois added it was the only hearing the town has been involved with in 10-15 years.  

In an email to The Independent Thursday, Ken Melanson, manager of planning services with Lambton County said; “I was aware other municipalities in Ontario were contemplating (or even applying such a fee)… I would encourage each municipality in the county to adopt such a fee, as the legal costs of an appeal (legitimate or not) are quite significant.

“Petrolia is the first municipality in the county to consider such offsets to the expense on the public taxpayer and I would encourage others to follow their lead.”