Kelowna city council has given the green light to a new charge, payable by developers, to fund the development of new parks and park amenities.
But the move is not sitting well with developers and the business community, which fear it will drive up the cost of housing even more in a city where prices are already high.
Approval by council on Monday afternoon will allow city staff will to prepare a specific park development cost charge bylaw that would require additional approval by the province.
“I’m happy with the direction we are taking,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “Growth paying for growth is fair.”
Development cost charges are paid by developers to help fund infrastructure in the area of their new developments. Infrastructure like roads, sewers, sidewalks and park land acquisition are covered.
The city’s move would create a DCC for park development because the city has bought plenty of land for future parks but much of it has yet to be developed.
The need for more parks is expected to increase as the city grows.
Most of the councillors who voted in favour of proceeding with the new parks DCC said they have heard from city residents concerned that land set aside for parks in their neighbourhoods are not being developed into parks, or is not being developed fast enough.
Coun. Maxine DeHart said while city residents who live in house use parks, they are especially important to condo, apartment and micro-suites residents as parks are their local green spaces.
“We have to do something,” said DeHart. “Clearly we’re behind (other communities).”
But the new charge is a concern to the development community, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Kelowna Association.
The Urban Development Institute and the Canadian Home Builders Association fear the charge will drive up the price of homes in the city, as developers look to recoup the added cost through the sale price of the home.
The chamber scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning to address council’s move.
But the city’s plan has the support of many sports and community groups, who feel the move will result in more parks being developed sooner rather than later.
The city’s existing DCC program collects money from developers that only goes toward the acquisition of land for future parks.
One councillor, Brad Sieben, suggested a portion of that money be used to help pay for the development of new park amenities.
But most of the other councillors and the mayor were opposed to such a move.
Coun. Charlie Hodge said he would not “rob Peter to pay Paul” by taking money from park land acquisition to fund park development.
A city staff report noted Kelowna is already behind other communities in the province in acquiring land for parks, and Hodge said it is important that they continue to acquire land for future parks.
The report also said the new charge would add just one per cent to the average cost of a new single-family home in the city, and two per cent to the cost of a condo. The report pegged that cost of the new DCC at an average of $7,200 per residential unit. That would be offset by the value of more neighbourhood parks.
In the end, only two councillors voted against introducing the new parks DCC, Sieben and Coun. Mohini Singh, who said she was torn on the issue.
City staff will now prepare the bylaw, send it to Victoria for approval and hope to have it in place in time to be implemented in January.
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