Sechelt council wants input from other groups before setting community amenity contribution levels for new land development projects. Sitting as a committee of the whole on Oct. 23, it received a report on a new policy for these fees from staff. It asked that the material be referred to Sechelt’s advisory planning commission and affordable housing committee. Recommendations from these groups are being sought before contribution levels and details are to be decided on by council.
The committee also wants a delegation representing the local development community to be heard. The suggestion for this initiative came from meeting audience member Chris Moore, a local realtor and a former Sechelt councillor. Moore said that he was willing to organize it, as he wants council to be aware of how these contributions and other district charges impact property development projects and the prices of new market housing.
Community amenity fees, like development cost charges (DCC) can be applied to land developments. They are applied when properties are subdivided or rezoned. They are not applied when a project is built on land that is available for that use, such as when owners of an appropriately zoned lot have a residential structure built
DCCs are collected to help local governments install the basic infrastructure of local roads, water, wastewater and drainage needed to service properties in their community. These are collected based on bylaws and fund projects that are also identified in those bylaws.
Sechelt collects community amenity fees under a policy, which it is looking to update. On Oct. 16, council gave first reading to a bylaw to establish a Community Amenity Reserve Fund to regulate how the funds collected under the policy can be spent. Once established, the policy and bylaw will lay out the means to pay for projects that deliver services that go beyond the municipal basics.
In Sechelt’s case, such projects could include recreation and cultural facilities, public parking and infrastructure to address communal social needs such as childcare or services for seniors. Decisions on which projects get funded would be at Council’s discretion.
“We are basically selling the rights for rezoning and more dense development. That comes at a cost. Our community is getting more dense and with more people we need more amenities for them,” said Mayor Darnelda Siegers.
Policy parameters suggested by staff allow developers to provide either assets, such as land or improvements, or cash contributions.
A staff proposal recommends that projects in the downtown core be subject to lower amenity charge levels than in other areas of the District. Director of Planning Andrew Allen stated that, in keeping with the community’s OCP, projects with higher densities should be encouraged to maintain the viability of this area. Staff’s view is that lower amenity fees could help achieve this.