Former Councillor, Heather Eby, Returns to Council Chambers with Harsh Criticism

Robert Thomas

A former Moose Jaw City Councillor appeared in front of the current Council to express her concerns about a bylaw, which died, that she says could have provided much needed infrastructure funds.

At the February 26th meeting, Council allowed Bylaw 5554, the Development Levy Bylaw, to die without even passing first reading. The bylaw would provide funds back to the City for infrastructure demands such as access roads, utility line upgrades, recreational facilities and parks not in the development itself but to support it.

Heather Eby said that by simply allowing the proposed bylaw to die before First Reading, Council not only failed to allow the bylaw to be discussed but potentially wasted large amounts of time, effort and money in doing so.

The bylaw came out of a 2014 planning session and according to Eby cost $75,000, four years to develop and hundreds of hours of staff time.

By defeating the bylaw, Council had just "thrown $75,000 of taxpayer's money down the drain" she said.

Additionally, with no bylaw, the costs of new developments were thrown "squarely in the lap of City taxpayers."

"The bylaw would allow new development to fund itself," she said, adding; "this Council was elected under the banner of transparency and "better together" and in this case, and others, we haven't seen it," Eby said.

According to a reliable, confidential source, unnamed developers quietly expressed their objections to the bylaw and it was allowed to die.

"Better Together" was the campaign slogan used by Mayor Frasier Tolmie in his election run.

In the Notice of Motion portion of the agenda, Mayor Tolmie had announced his intent to resurrect Bylaw 5554. Usually, defeated bylaws cannot be brought back to council for one year but can be, only if 60 percent of council agree to it.

The off-site levy is a per acre charge, when developing new subdivisions. It pays for necessary off-site infrastructure on a 40 year cycle. Off-site infrastructure is not within the developed land, but elsewhere in the city – it is things like recreation facilities, roads, sewer and water upgrades in other areas of the city needed to support the development.

The rate since 1996 has been $32,804/acre. A report recommended increasing the levy to $80,580/acre to be phased in 2018 – 60 percent, 2019 – 80 percent and 2020 – 100 percent. The levy will also be subject to a 2 percent annual surcharge to account for inflation and rising infrastructure costs.

A study looked at 2,820 acres of undeveloped land and the estimated off-site infrastructure costs of $227,264,000 on a 40 year cycle. It's formula was to take the $227,264,000 estimated infrastructure cost and divide it over the 2,820 acres to reach the $80,580/acre levy. The levy would be equal to $16,900 per standard residential lot.

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