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Monday
Jul252011

Developer Rate Subsidies

Further to my post on 4 July regarding the placing of the proposal to provide a developer rate subsidy, I have given further thought to the manner in which the proposal came forward - a strange process by any standards. 

You will  be aware from reports elsewhere that the proposal was sidelined and sent away 'for further study', but it is the manner in which such a controversial matter was introduced that concerns me. 

Council had convened a Ordinary meeting on 6 July specifically for the purpose of considering an Amendment to Part 2 of the Public Places (Freedom Camping) Bylaw that was not listed on Council’s Annual Calendar, and the subsidy item was tacked on the agenda for no apparent good reason - it could have just as easily been dealt with at the 10 August meeting, but more puzzling is just how the proposal arose.

It is of course our Council’s task to consider any measures that may contribute to the economy of the Peninsula, and the jobs that are so crucial to its future. The paper that accompanied the proposal indicated that:

"staff had been made aware of the Council’s ‘willingness to consider’ reintroducing a remission of rates for new developments. Under the 2006 Policy developers were able to have rates on new lots remitted for up to two years. This policy was repealed during the review of the 2009 Ten Year Plan due to the significant financial cost that this remission was having on Council.

Staff made it clear on this occasion that because of the likely cost ($300,000) that they did not favour its re-introduction, which is a relief. 

What is not clear is just how ‘council’s willingness’ was expressed – certainly not during the May Annual Plan hearings, or Ten Year Plan discussions. One is left to speculate that it emerged from one the secret workshops that have become so much the stock-in-trade of this particular Council. Discussion with several former councilors has confirmed that this procedure is unprecedented in their experience, and real concerns regarding transparency were expressed.

Cr. McLean claimed that remitting rates on unsold sections would somehow stimulate sales by allowing developers to seek titles earlier resulting in faster sales – an unconvincing argument if ever I heard one.  As Cr. Connors rightly pointed out "there are more than enough sections available – there are just no buyers".

It smacks of desperation, and bad decision-making by developers who in their usual self-interested manner seek to capitalize profits, and socialize losses. Our council should not become a party to this, again - we already sufficiently subsidize infrastructure for their benefit. 

In short, it is inappropriate to introduce such a controversial measure at the end of the Bylaw Hearings meeting agenda. It should have been brought into the open during the Annual Plan Hearings, or the Ten Year Plan discussions in May, and public input permitted.

Finally, one must presume that councillors will carefully consider potential conflict of interest on this issue.

 

 

 

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