Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey said it is no surprise the city’s plan to sharply boost development levies has faced opposition but believes a fair compromise can be reached.
“No one likes higher rates to pay, especially when they’re this massive per lot. That’s easy to understand,” said Creasey during Monday’s city council meeting.
“However, I hope they appreciate the fact that they were consulted first and there’s been some substantial adjustments made in what’s going to come forward in March.”
While all would like lower rates, there is only one tax base to provide the funding necessary for future infrastructure and services.
“The simple fact of the matter is there needs to be a balance.”
“The final number is not going to please anybody, ever. But as long as we can get the formula right and make it palatable, I think that we’ve done as good a job as can be expected with a very difficult project.”
Last fall, a levy update was unveiled that proposed 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.
Before going further with the plan, city administration met with developers and landowners to get their feedback. A recurring criticism was that developers felt the proposed rates were too high and would make it harder to sell and develop properties as well as increasing housing costs.
Administration agreed to tweak the proposed rates, reducing the average levy from $115,107 per hectare to $95,500 per hectare. The lower rate changes the average rate increase from the current $79,000 from 46 per cent to just under 20 per cent.
Developers also told the city the timing for rate increases was wrong because of the recent economic slowdown.
Administration is proposing options to phase in increases over three years and will be seeking city council’s input on development incentives, which could include lower levies or tax incentives.
Coun. Reuben Konnik said town administration has taken feedback and made changes to reflect what was heard from developers and landowners.
“I think we’re getting there, but we have to be mindful of how this will impact a number of things. So, we have to make sure before we finally decided on it that we’ve got the model that we will think will work,” said Konnik.
“But I think we’re on the right track.”
Council voted unanimously to further discuss offsite levies at a March 20 committee of the whole meeting.