Development Charges 2014 – 2018: The Untold Story

Adapted from our 2015-16 Annual Report:

…by the end of 2013, the City proceeded with the revision of the Development Charges By-law, to be completed by June 2014 as prescribed by the Development Charges Act. The public was excluded from this process, despite a joint effort by the Alliance, the Federation of Citizens’ Associations (FCA) and the Healthy Transportation Coalition (media release of 31 March 2014). At the last minute the City provided some responses to our questions. We made a submission to Planning Committee. Council duly approved a new by-law by the deadline but there were several appeals to the OMB. In October 2015 a proposed settlement of two appeals (by GOHBA and BOMA) was approved by Council. There was no media coverage of this and we became aware of it only thanks to research by Neil Kabesh in early 2016.

This settlement provides for:

(1) a 25% reduction in charges for the road component …;

(2) an amendment to the By-law in 2017 which will, as the DC Act post-Bill 73 now requires, increase the charges on account of transit but further decrease road charges following a review of “standards”;

(3) no new projects in the 2017 amendment unless the appellants agree.

Three Councillors dissented when Council came out of camera and voted on the settlement — Councillors Nussbaum, McKenney and Chiarelli. Councillor Nussbaum wrote a blog post explaining why.

(For more on the story up to June 2014, please go here.)

On April 23, 2016, Erwin made a presentation to an FCA Workshop.  He calculated that, on an annual basis, the 25% road charges reduction amounts to a revenue loss of $6.5 million. He noted that there had been no media coverage of the October 2015 settlement.

The Ontario Municipal Board, at the commencement of a 4-day hearing on another DC By-law appeal, endorsed the settlement (hearing, Nov 23, 2015; Decision, Nov 29, 2016).  The Board also adjudicated several other appeals; in all but one the City lost. As of this writing, two appeals remain outstanding.

Bill 73 requires that any Background Study for a DC By-law update or amendment be made available to the public one month before Council will approve the by-law; and that the by-law amendment be available to the public two weeks prior to Planning Committee’s consideration of it. Conforming strictly to the new rules, the City announced availability of the Background Study in an e-Newsletter and posted the By-law amendment two weeks ahead (against the customary one week) but didn’t tell anyone about it.

On May 9, John Moser, likely in his last appearance before Planning Committee, presented the proposed changes.  Here is his slide presentation; it gives a succinct overview of the various developments on this file and the resulting new DC charges. Council endorsed the amendment and passed the by-law on May 24, 2017. The staff report is here.  In brief:

+ As a result of the changes related to transit (no 10% deduction, forward-looking costs), an additional 39% of growth-related transit costs is now recoverable through DC charges, leading to a $1,787 increase for a single family dwelling; a 2-bedroom apartment inside the Greenbelt sees an increase of $682, outside the Greenbelt $1,068.

+ As a result of the changes related to roads (25% reduction mainly due to reduced contingencies, increases due to changes to the rules for intersections, and minor reductions resulting from Infrastructure Standards Review processes), DC charges for a SFD inside the Greenbelt are reduced by $1,389, outside the Greenbelt by $573; 2-bedroom apartments see reductions of $817 and $324 respectively.

+ Net, inside the Greenbelt a SFD now requires an additional $398, outside the Greenbelt the increase is $1,214; a 2-bedroom apartment inside the Greenbelt sees a decrease of $135, outside the Greenbelt there will be an increase of $744.  This table shows the full net results.

At Planning Committee, Pierre Dufresne, speaking for the Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association, said that while he wasn’t happy about the additional $1,200, he commended the City for the process, calling it “extremely reasonable” and “very fair” (Committee audio, 1:17:40 to 1:24:00).

There is a 40-day appeal period.

Comment: The process may have been fair for the development industry, but the public has once again been excluded from it.  Clearly oblivious to the need for public participation, the staff report had this to say about consultation:

A tradition has been established with Development Charges By-law initiatives to convene a Sponsor Group to guide the update by advising and assisting staff and by reviewing options to amend the development charges rate. The Sponsor Group for the 2017 Development Charges By-law amendment is Planning Committee Chair Jan Harder and Audit Committee Chair Allan Hubley, who are also the leads on the Building Better and Smarter Suburbs and Infrastructure Standards Review Strategic Initiatives.
An Industry Working Group also was established consisting of representatives from GOHBA and BOMA.

The next update is due in 2019.  Following updates of the Transportation and Infrastructure Master Plans in 2020 or so, a further amendment is expected thereafter.  Communities will have to push very hard to crack the process open.

Erwin Dreessen – 13 June 2017



On April 11, 2018, Council endorsed a recommendation from Planning Committee that the following Councillors would form the Sponsor Group for the 2019 Development Charges By-Law Review: Councillors Harder, Hubley, Blais, Moffatt, and Leiper.

A new by-law must be passed by May 2019.  The report (ACS2018-CCS-PLC-0004) states that the update will not address capital pressures beyond the 2031 planning horizon.  As for consultation, besides meeting regularly with the Sponsor Group, the report mentions staff will “meet with stakeholder groups” —  the same model that has “been used successfully during both the 2009 and 2014 updates”.

A “high-level timeline for the update includes:

+ Workplan and schedule – May 2018

+ Approval of inputs into calculations – December 2018

+ Release Background Study – March 2019

+ Public meeting at Planning Committee – April 2019

On another note, at the end of 2018 two appeals of the 2014 By-law remained outstanding: “Development in the Vicinity of Transit Stations” and “Monahan Drain.”

Re development near transit stations, at issue is the removal of an exemption, equivalent to 50% of the road component of DCs, for such projects.  We are unaware of the identity of the appellants.

Re Monahan Drain, one appellant is Claridge Homes.  It questions the correctness of various counts, inclusions and allocations.  Also appealing is South Kanata Development Corporation which wants to know if the “benefit to existing” share is appropriate for an existing facility retrofit.

Please go here for what is transpiring in 2019.

E.D. (15 Jan 2019)