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Lacombe plans to boost development levies

Charges to developers to help cover the cost of infrastructure not updated since 2013
Downtown Lacombe (photo courtesy of Lacombe Tourism). The Lacombe Chamber of Commerce and the Echo Lacombe Association have a number of initiatives to help businesses, local shoppers and the community thrive through the pandemic and beyond.

The City of Lacombe is proposing significant hikes to the levies charged to developers to help cover the costs of roads, sewers and other infrastructure.

A 2023 levy update proposes increases ranging from 10 to 350 per cent, with an average increase of 46 per cent. The last levy bylaw setting out rates was passed in 2013.

Since then, much has changed in the city of about 13,400, which has been growing steadily for many years. Inflation has significantly added to construction costs (about 24 per cent since 2013), new projects have been proposed and changes to the Municipal Government Act added facilities, such as fire halls, police stations and libraries to those levies can help pay for, says a report to council.

As well, the areas of the city where levies can be applied has been expanded and changes are proposed in how the benefits and levies are allocated. Changes to the city’s 10-year capital plan, among others, has also seen projects added or removed.

On Tuesday, Lacombe announced plans to launch a consultation effort to explain the changes and get landowner and developer feedback.

“This consultation process is a transparent means to ensure that Lacombe is fairly allocating the cost of core infrastructure our citizens expect and deserve,” said Mayor Grant Creasey in a statement.

The city plans to reach out to the community through social media, through the city website and by direct letters and invitations to meet with city officials that will be sent to landowners and developers.

Results of the consultation are expected to come back to council in early 2023.

Offsite levies are a way for municipalities to recover some of the costs of upgrades needed to public facilities, water, sanitary, stormwater and arterial roadways as communities develop.

Lacombe’s offsite levy rates are calculated by dividing the estimated infrastructure cost over the benefiting area, generating a cost-per-hectare charge.

Among the changes proposed is an increase in the levies charged to developers to help cover the cost of arterial roadways. Developers now pay about 25 per cent of the cost and the city wants to increase that to 50 per cent.

The city has identified more than $13 million in infrastructure work that will be needed in coming years to make way for community growth, including $8 million to widen Highway 12 between Highway 2A and 34th Street over the next 10 to 20 years. A $3 million fire hall is in the 10-year capital plan and it is proposed levies cover half the cost.

Under the proposed policy, the minimum levy rate will increase to $80,213 per hectare from $18,874 and the maximum rate will increase to $150,974 from $120,119. That boosts the average levy to $115,107 per hectare from $78,876. That would put Lacombe in the middle among 11 similar Alberta communities and about 14 per cent below the average levy of $127,217, according to a report to council.

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