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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, September 26, 2022
Letter: For town and developers, it’s all about money
Lettertotheeditormale

Dear editor:

Another meeting regarding yet another property development. From the point of view of both apparent protagonists – the town and the developer – discussion and questioning will be about aesthetics, design and layout.

However, this chartered accountant recognizes that for both parties, it’s all about money.

For the developer, the more dwellings he can jam into a single piece of land, the lower his land costs per unit and the more money that can be made. And one of the developer’s worst fears is extended delays. There are financing costs and taxes to be paid, the uncertainty of material costs and the health of the housing market when the project can finally go on the market. Forget about the window-dressing of consultations and concessions – it’s all about money.

From the municipality's point of view, there are major financial influences, too. First, there are development charges. These are fees levied by the municipality on each approved dwelling unit. In the case of Niagara-on-the-Lake, an online search shows development charges are $10,503 for each single and semi-detached dwelling, and $8,618 for each unit that is a different multiple.

So, for the proposed 125 detached units at over $10,000 each, the municipality receives, up front, over $1,125,000 while the other units bring in close to $600,000. And more property taxes will come later when the units are built and sold.

So, our municipality gets a really nice payment of more than $1,725,000 for the development now under discussion. Not bad for doing nothing but approving a developer’s draft plan of subdivision. It certainly helps the town’s budget. So once again it’s all about money.

Given that both “sides” seem to have the same objective, what can we look for as yet another chunk of open land disappears? Once the developer has sold the project and moved on, they are out of the picture. The municipality, however, can face ongoing issues.

We have read about residents in recent development projects having to apologize to their visitors because they have been ticketed for on-street parking. Take a look at some of the units near the former Sentineal property on Anne Street. A few of the driveways are not long enough even for the resident to park their car.

No one at the town apparently had looked to see whether the individual units wedged onto the lots actually have space for real driveways. Shame!

But then, longer driveways would mean fewer units. Some older developments have provided off-street parking spaces that might otherwise have been able to fit in a couple of more houses. Good for them but that doesn’t seem to be the expectations of the town today – it’s all about money.

Toronto had a fire more than 100 years ago and it spread blazingly fast through attached dwellings. Rules now impose stringent fire-resistant standards between attached dwellings. Increasingly we have rows of attached dwellings in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We inquired when we came to town several years ago about demising standards here in town and were assured by a town employee that there should be noise-proofing. Hello! Have you heard of cement block demising walls, extending all the way to the roofline? This town hadn’t. Pretty expensive for a developer, though. It’s all about money.

The application submitted to the town shows a total of 0.89 hectares for parks and open spaces. Out of a total of 12.34 Hectares, that's about 7 per cent. Sure, the Commons is nearby, but that’s not the point. Within the development, that’s a small amount of space to serve 191 unit-owners and their families.

They had better not try to enjoy it at the same time. Or perhaps they could set up a booking and scheduling system. Yes, I know … it’s all about money.

Finally, how about some really innovative elements for development in the town? Like a plan that provides charging points in each garage so owners can charge the electric cars that loom in our future?

And perhaps something that other municipalities require – an element of affordable housing in the project? The term “affordable housing” is somewhat of an oxymoron in Old Town.

But rather than nodding our heads in quiet acquiescence, perhaps we should try to do something to address the issue. That probably won’t happen. After all, it’s all about money.

John Sayers
NOTL