Updated levies in bylaw ruffle some local feathers

A change to a local bylaw has land developers in Sylvan Lake questioning the changes.

  • Thu Jun 1st, 2017 11:00am
  • News

A proposed bylaw for the Town of Sylvan Lake has drawn the criticism and disapproval of a number of concerned residents. Bylaw 1740 has faced a delay in the process of gaining public approval the bylaw and made it to second reading, at Council’s May 23 meeting.

Bylaw 1740 is an amendment to the current Off-Site Levy Bylaw 1666, and entails changes to the off-site levy rates outlined in Bylaw 1666. Bylaw 1740 clarifies that the Town is responsible for assessing off-site levies at the time of subdivision. Off-site levies are collected by the Town to help fund the development of waste, water and transportation infrastructure.

According to documentation from the Town, the new bylaw entails updates to off-site levy rates, basing them on cost estimates and planning assumptions that relate to construction projects and development timing in the area assessed.

The amendment to the bylaw would allow for annual review of particulars relating to engineering, planning and finance assumptions that help determine off-site levy rates for each parcel of land within the town.

During a public hearing period for the bylaw at the May 23 meeting, no guests at the Council chambers spoke in support of the bylaw. When given a chance to voice their disapproval, a few of the guests present at the meeting came forward to express their concerns to Council.

“Looking at this, I don’t think you had the chance to analyze the cost increases here,” said one resident present at the meeting, worried that the proposed changes would prove expensive for local land developers.

Another resident expressed their surprise in response to the jump in, prices per hectare, the bylaw would create, adding, “we feel as if this is almost definitely a negative thing that it’s change does so much. Our question is, from last year to this year, what caused that huge price jump? This is going to have a huge effect on us.”

In a call with the Sylvan Lake News, Director of Public Works David Brand said that the bylaw requires an annual update of the model by which off-site levies are calculated for land in Sylvan Lake.

“We can say that off-site, the cost of servicing [the affected] lands [that residents were concerned about] are more than they were last year,” sand Brand.

Some residents have noticed a dramatic increase in the cost of those levies on their land, Brand explained, because of the addition of projects in the west annexation area of town projects that weren’t represented in last year’s assessment values.

“We do an annual update…and every year we do an update, we change the assumptions that are in there, based on data available to us. The reason those projects weren’t in there last year was because we didn’t anticipate the land to be developed,” said Brand.

With the acquisition of lands by the Town for Pogadl Park, and the continuing development in Sylvan Lake going on west of 60th Street, Brand noted that Public Works is now aware that things will develop sooner in those affected areas which influences the cost of levies.

“We had to add those projects, which really changed the cost dynamic from last year’s model to this year’s model that’s what affected those properties,” he said. “We had to add service to those properties, which wasn’t in there before. Costs last year were artificially low, because the servicing wasn’t there. The costs last year were for unserviced land, while this year’s model entails the cost for serviced land.”

Brand said the update to the bylaw entails changes in planning and land use, and “assumptions, in terms of what development is going on, based on the current economy and engineering assumptions in terms of what infrastructure is required to service the developments.”

Public Works will take the bylaw back to Council at its next regular meeting. Brand noted that Public Works is available to anyone wishing to express concerns or ask questions about the updated off-site levies, or the model from which they are derived.