Sandy Casselman 
Villager Staff

EMBRUN – The township of Russell has given Hemson Consulting Ltd. the go ahead to draft a background study for municipal-wide developmental charges.

The decision was made during a special meeting June 21. Hemson Senior Consultant Andrew Mirabella attended the virtual session to present a Development Charges (DC) Draft Rates report. In addition to receiving the report, director of finances and treasurer Richard Godin asked council to give Hemson the greenlight to proceed with drafting the background study. The vote was unanimous.

With the municipality’s DC Bylaw due to expire on Dec. 12 of this year, Hemson was awarded a contract in February to conduct an update. In his report, Godin said staff have been working alongside the consultant to review each service’s growth needs, formulate a 10-year growth forecast, and produce a development-related capital program.

“The principle behind this is growth pays for growth so that the financial burden of servicing new development is not borne by your existing tax- and ratepayers,” Mirabella said. DC are fees imposed on development to finance development-related capital costs, such as new infrastructure and facilities that are needed to maintain service levels.

Mirabella’s development forecast summary predicts a growth of roughly 6,600 people, 2,400 occupied households, and 950 employees over the next 10 years. The numbers are based on past growth information and trends dating back to 2006. The forecasted expense for general services, such as library, parks and recreation, fire protection, police, bylaw enforcement, and development-related studies, is roughly $64 million, while the forecasted amount for engineering services, such as Public Works, roads, water, and wastewater, is roughly $46 million.

“With the growth that we’re experiencing now, I think it only stands to reason that we have a fair bit of infrastructure that’s associated with that growth and future growth expected to be at this high level. I think it only makes sense,” Coun. Mike Tarnowski said. “I’m not uncomfortable with where we’re at right now, to the point where if it was a bit higher, I would still be okay.”

In a comparison of current numbers versus future trends, Mirabella said the total rural residential charge would need to increase by roughly 35 per cent, while the total urban residential charge would require a 27 per cent increase. Mirabella said the rate increase can be attributed to more robust departmental inventories and increased growth, increased intersection improvements and road requirements, continued recovery of negative reserve fund balances and existing debt, as well as to upcoming significant general service projects, such as the new recreation centre and the library expansion.

“From my perspective, I think it’s fair what’s there now,” Mayor Pierre Leroux said in response to numbers presented by Mirabella. “I think it’s in comparison, we’re not on the high end, we’re not on the low end. We have to think long-term as well. I’m comfortable with what is being presented.”

A comparison chart highlighting residential DC across different municipalities showed that Russell sits roughly in the middle. The changes would see the township move slightly higher on the scale, but still significantly lower than Ottawa or North Grenville. In a non-residential DC comparison, Russell is below the mid-range.

The draft maximum allowable residential township-wide DC rates for urban services would be roughly $22,909 for single and semi-detached, $14,968 for rows and other multiples, $13,211 for apartments with two or more bedrooms, $9,544 for bachelor and one-bedroom apartments, and $7,635 for special care and special needs. Rural rates would exclude water and wastewater amounts. The draft maximum allowable non-residential township-wide DC rates would be roughly $58.67 per square metre for serviced properties and $14.33 per square metre for those not serviced.

“I’m not saying I’m not in favour of the amount,” Coun. Jamie Laurin said. “I’d like to hear what [developers] comments are as well. We’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything for the right reasons and if it makes sense then we absolutely move forward. So, I have no problems with that.”

Council has the right to implement the maximum allowable rate, which can be phased in, Mirabella said. He said it is important to consider lost revenue to be recovered from other sources, as well as the fact that past DC revenue cannot be recouped by way of higher DC.

Between now and Sept. 12, 2021, when a new replacement bylaw needs to be passed, there is much to do, Mirabella said. Hemson will prepare a municipal-wide DC Background Study, the study will be circulated for public perusal, a consultation will be held with developers, and, finally, a statutory public meeting will be held.

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