LETTER: Township’s $18 million Aldergrove amenity contribution policy is shortsighted

A lack of consultation has led to policy based on bad judgment, retired councillor says

Dear Editor,

Recently, I have followed the evolution of the revised Community Amenity Contribution (CAC) policy which was adopted by Council at its April 15 meeting.

This Council did not even wait for the original CAC Policy (passed on July 23rd, 2018) to come into effect to see what the implications and ramifications of implementing a policy of this nature might do, both from a growth perspective, and also from a development industry perspective.

Rather than take a wait and see approach, the new council simply threw out that document and raised the CAC fee by 20 per cent, a cost fronted by new home buyers.

The Feb 29 report to Council stated, “The proposed revisions would require consultation with the Development Industry for information and feedback.” That was completely ignored, and a motion to have the Urban Development Industry speak to Council was passed, 8-1, with the only developer on Council voting against having his industry spokespersons present.

Regardless, Council passed the new policy without any feedback from the industry or the TOL community as a whole, including the Willoughby Community Association.

I thought in this era of “New Beginnings,” transparency and open government were paramount… not so.

The policy states, “The provision of these amenities will be subject to community input, Council prioritization, and available revenue.”

We know that the community had no input on the changes to the policy, but what about the issue of available revenue? The headline in the paper read $18 million will be generated from this new CAC to enhance Aldergrove’s downtown core.

The social media response was euphoria. But is this just a ruse to get a new four-storey parkade paid for without Aldergrove community input?

The housing industry is in a downturn due to a number of factors. This policy does not contribute to the revenue source, only rezoning applications – and there is a graduated 12-month grace period. In other words, it will take considerable time before the new Amenity Fund achieves a usable sum.

The interesting feature of the new policy is that it is directly tied to growth in our community: the greater the growth, the greater the revenue generated. Ironically, two members of Council (sometimes three) who whole-heartedly supported the new CAC Policy vote against virtually every new rezoning application that comes up!

In order for Aldergrove to get $18,000,000 in the next 20 years, there will have to be 24,032 new single-family dwellings built. That is 1,201 homes built per year in the TOL.

That thresholds increases significantly when you mix the townhouses and condos, as they generate much less revenue.

I suggest it is impossible in a downturn market.

So what are the priorities for the redevelopment of Aldergrove’s downtown core?

One Council member’s “fix” is a 188-stall four-storey parkade right in the middle of the new mall redevelopment. The cost estimate I received from one industry person was $30,000 per stall – for a total of $5,640,000.

The parkade concept is already built in to the plans for the updated Aldergrove Mall application, and will soon be fast-tracked to Council for a height variance. The Mall plan, as shown to the public in March, incorporates it – and you have had no say in the matter.

In the meantime, the TOL will have to borrow the money, pay the interest until there is enough money “in the bank.”

Is this the best and highest use of the CAC amenity money? Is this a true model for public consultation?

Everyone on Social Media is really excited for Aldergrove, until the time comes when Willoughby or Brookswood need access to that 11 per cent for a new police station, library, or community recreation facility.

With the new building in Brookswood that will contribute the revised CAC fund in 10 years, that business core could use an upgrade – but the money is tied up to go towards Aldergrove. Poor planning.

My only hope is that Council will start to take a closer look at the numbers and input process, and all the people that are taken in by a headline start to look deeper, do the math, and really consider if a four-storey parkade truly is the highest priority for Aldergrove’s revitalization.

I hope the Aldergrove Community Association has lots of “Thank-you” cards to send to every new household built in the Township, starting at the close of the grace period. Those newcomers will be paying for Aldergrove’s parkade and other improvements.

Charlie Fox, Aldergrove

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