Peace River passes off-site levy and tax bylaws

Susan Thompson
Express Staff

The Town of Peace River held a public hearing on the off-site levy bylaw which will affect any new development in the town.

Off-site levies are a tool municipalities can use to help pay for new infrastructure needed because of development, such as water lines.

An open house on the new off-site levy was held April 2, and six people aside from councillors attended. One person also sent a written submission.

Some changes were made to the bylaw after the feedback from the open house including reducing the interest rate on levies from 4% to 3%.

Development officer Alisha Mody explained the new bylaw replaces bylaw 1851.

It establishes the off-site levy, divides the town into different off-site levy areas and what the rate of the levy is in those areas, and determines when the off-site levy is imposed whether at subdivision or development.

Larry Hryniuk spoke in favour of the bylaw.

“The old bylaw was onerous to developers and I’m certain that the town saw the results of that onerous cost imposed on development. By addressing these concerns with the proposed bylaw, I believe new development and construction within the town of Peace River will increase. Hopefully economic times will also change that,” Hyrniuk said.

Hyrniuk asked council to change the proposed bylaw to remove the requirement that the developer obtain a bond or surety, and also asked if off-site levies could be paid as lots are sold.

“I’m asking town not to have a blanket policy,” Hryniuk said in reponse to some questions on his suggestion from Councillor Don Good.

“I don’t want a straight no-way or yes. I want admin to be able to have the right to sit down with the developer to sit down and say ok, what are your plans. I want the town to empower administration to deal with developers on a case-by-case basis.”

“There is always bad apples and the town has to balance the bad apples versus the good apples,” Hryniuk said.

“Some of those bad apples are rotten to the core,” said Mayor Tom Tarpey.

Barry Heinen of the West Hill residential group also spoke in support of the new bylaw.

“I think when development does progress in the Town of Peace River I think it will be seen as a positive move, and I think it should encourage development,” Heinen said.

“Between the revised bylaw and the policy descriptions that are going along with it that you’ve adopted, I think you’ve got something that is very workable and should encourage development when it does occur.”

Mody said the proposed changes suggested by Hyrniuk could be addressed through policy rather then bylaw itself.

She said taking security in the form of a bond had already been removed because the Town could not actually secure the obligation of a levy through a bond.

The policy also changed when interest would be charged on deferred levies, based on feedback from developers who didn’t want to be paying interest to both the Town and the bank at the same time.

In response to a question from Deputy Mayor Elaine Manzer, Mody clarified that five years is the maximum amount of time the Town will defer an off-site levy under the policy, not until the property is sold.

In response to a request for clarification on how administration might negotiate with different developers from Councillor Colin Needham, Greg Towne with administration also responded, “Mr. Hyrniuk also mentioned that he would like to see where administration has some latitude to negotiate with different parties. I have to really caution against that. I would be concerned.”

“That tends to get municipalities and administrations in trouble when we treat different parties differently,” Towne said.

Council passed the bylaw and also approved the new offsite levy policy.

Town council also passed Bylaw 2045 establishing tax rates. Council must pass a new property tax bylaw every year.

There was a small assessment increase for the town over last year.

Total assessed value for all properties in the Town of Peace River is $970.6 million for 2019, an increase from $965.8 million in 2018. Single family dwelling assessments are up, duplexes and apartments are down.

Commercial assessments are down about 2.9 per cent, and industrial properties have increased about 2.8 per cent.

Council increased the total tax levy on existing properties from $10.9 million in 2018 to approximately $11.3 mill 2019, an increase of about $360,000 for the budget.

The bylaw increases the residential tax rates by 2.11 per cent.

Non-residental tax rates increased 4.58 per cent.

Greg Towne pointed our the interplay between higher tax rates and lower assessments meant tax rate on average for commercial properties would actually mean an increase of about 3 per cent on average.

For residential properties, the change means tax bill increases of about 2.9 or 3 per cent on average.

“That’s about $56.50 on a property valued at $300,000, or $4.71 per month,” Towne said.

“So less than $5 a month,” Mayor Tarpey said. “Maybe forgo a latte.”

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