Mayor Shari Green was right on the money when she introduced a recommendation to have a new Development Cost Charge (DCC) Bylaw brought to council.
“I think the homebuilders and construction associations may be in for a surprise,” she said, noting the new bylaw would lower the assist factor, the amount the city contributes to help fund servicing needed by new development, from 10 per cent to one per cent.
Gordon Bliss, president of the Canadian Home Builders Association of Northern B.C., was definitely surprised.
“No kidding,” he said Tuesday. “They haven’t even talked to us. This is the first I’ve heard about DCC changes.
“They had told us we would be contacted if there were going to be any changes. I thought we were part of the community.”
He said the change, which basically means higher DCCs for the builders, means homebuyers will pay more.
“The increase will be passed along to the buyer. Our members can’t absorb all these extra charges.”
He said the association would be getting in touch with the city to discuss the matter.
Prince George Construction Association president Rosalind Thorn is also looking forward to meeting with the city about the proposed changes.
“”We weren’t aware there were going to be any changes proposed to the charges,” she said. “I know there is a consultation process later, which is where we can discuss with the city the impacts these changes may have.”
She felt the changes would have more of an impact on developers and homeowners.
“Most of our members are contractors, so we don’t have much to do with the charges.”
Thorn said the group will be coming to the meetings with one thing in mind.
“We want to ensure the community is as business-friendly as possible. When you attract economic development to the city, you increase the revenues to the city coffers.”
At Monday’s meeting, director of planning and development services Ian Wells said prior to 2007, the city’s assist factor was 50 per cent, and at that time it was lowered to 10 per cent. The Local Government Act states the assist factor must be at least one per cent.
Five per cent seemed to be a magic number for city council at a special meeting Monday, including for business licences.
The number came up consistently at a special meeting to deal with staff recommendations relating to the Core Services Review done by KPMG for the city.
The recommendation from staff, based on the report, was that business licence fees be increased by 30 per cent, effective Jan. 1. Coun. Brian Skakun was the first to make clear his unhappiness with that figure.
“Thirty per cent is massive,” he said. “Some might be able to handle it, the bigger businesses, but small businesses might not.”
The administration report indicated the suggested 30 per cent hike was to bring the license fees to a full cost recovery status, and Coun. Cameron Stolz had no problem with that.
“We’re looking at cost recovery on a lot of the other items we’ll be covering today,” he said, “and this is an opportunity to look at businesses as well. We’re going to discuss user fees which could increase 12 or 15 per cent a year, so this should be the baseline for all.
“However,” he noted, “other increases are being implemented over a period of time.”
He then suggested the recommendation be amended to a 10 per cent increase in each of the next three years, an amendment which was eventually defeated.
Coun. Dave Wilbur agreed with Stolz on the need for full cost recovery, but Coun. Frank Eeveritt wasn’t so convinced.
“I don’t think many things the city does are at a full cost-recovery level.”
Coun. Albert Koehler suggested the administrative costs involved with the city issuing business licences were too high, and that the Chamber of Commerce should take over the role.
He then moved five per cent increases in each of the next three years, which was passed.
Rod Holmes, the president of the Downtown Business Improvement Association, says his group doesn’t have a problem with the increase.
“We know the bills have to be paid, and it’s going up nominally, so we don’t have a problem.”
The change to the lower amount, he says, was also a good move.
“There’s no doubt 30 per cent would have been tougher on business owners. It’s funny how it works. It’s still going up, but because it isn’t going up as much as they said it would, we’re pleased.”