Woolwich lowers building charges

Where Waterloo Region is hiking the development charges for new homes, Woolwich Township is proposing to drop its fees by about 20 per cent.

For fully serviced lots in Woolwich’s urban areas, the new charges adopted by councillors Tuesday night see levies fall to $4,395 from the current $5,474. In Breslau, due to servicing arrangements with the City of Kitchener, the corresponding figures are $5,451 and $6,428.

Development charges are arrived at by calculating population and housing growth and then determining the cost of providing services to accommodate that growth.

Over the next 10 years, the township expects its population to grow by 4,240, requiring 1,820 new residential units. Over 20 years, those numbers are 9,061 and 3,570 respectively.

On the industrial side, those constructing new buildings would be assessed a fee of $1.65 per square foot, down from $1.94. For Breslau developments, the numbers are $1.49 and $1.72.

Much of the reason for the decrease lies with Woolwich’s successful bid for grants from the federal and provincial governments, explained Andrew Grunda of Watson & Associates, the consultants who prepared the township’s development charges study.

“That put downward pressure on rates,” he told councillors, noting the 20 per cent decrease for residential development charges in Elmira and St. Jacobs.

Under provincial rules, municipalities must deduct infrastructure grants from its overall capital expenditure forecasts, effectively lowering how much work is eligible to be recouped through development charges on new construction, Grunda explained.

In figuring out its costs, the township uses a 20-year model to predict the need for hard services such as roads, public works facilities and fire services. Provincial legislation limits the forecast for soft services – parks, trails, recreation facilities – to 10 years.

The township also has special provisions for the stockyards area of St. Jacobs, which is expected to see significant employment land development. That area, along with Elmira and St. Jacobs, is subject to a special-area consideration taking into account the 20-year forecast for water and wastewater services.

Woolwich figures it needs $47.4 million in capital spending over the timeframe, of which $15 million (32 per cent) is recoverable through development charges.

At the regional level, by contrast, development charges are set to rise dramatically, to $12,440 from the $8,965 for new homes in the township’s urban areas.

Mayor Bill Strauss called the township plan a good-news story.

However, in a move that could raise charges if adopted, councillors endorsed a recommendation from finance director Richard Petherick asking that the province reverse its stance on grants being deducted from the total amount of capital projects eligible for development charges.

The corresponding resolution was passed by council, and will be forwarded to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

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