Village tax time is approaching and it is our understanding we will face an increase.
We look to the immediate history of our community, sad to say, we have not had any development. Two years ago we had a developer ready to go ahead with a plan to develop the old stampede grounds. We also have a developer who would like to proceed with a seven-lot residential development on upper Government Street. These two would have increased our tax base and may have allowed sufficient taxation to reduce or prevent the planned increase, something we will never know as both developers hit a roadblock that has, and did, bring everything to a halt.
We are not fully aware of the reason for the continuing delay, other than that the two were faced with a cost that should be levied over the total community rather than just their proposed development.
We are now going into the third year and are still at a stalemate. In our estimation, the taxes that could have been raised on the property would have offset the cost of the drainage study, which appears to be holding up approval.
We have a very progressive and expanding business underway in Ashcroft. The Inland Port development is growing and will need a number of employees who, due to the stalemate on development, will have to live elsewhere.
Daily, we hear of people wishing to relocate from the Lower Mainland, but not in Ashcroft, sorry to say. We do have the land available but it cannot be developed due to the current legislation. Adjacent communities are benefitting, we only have to look to Cache Creek and Clinton as an example.
The ever-increasing price of residential property in the Lower Mainland area, combined with the COVID virus, is causing those working out of their homes to relocate to an area that has reasonably priced homes.
This note is to stimulate discussion and interest in our community, especially long-term planning and future growth. We as a community are in a position to assist in long-term planning and progressive growth as well as promote development and hold or decrease the need for future tax increases from which we will all benefit.
We, the undersigned taxpayers of Ashcroft, request immediate action on the stalemate.
Lee and Gordon Berdan, Vivian Edwards, Fran Helland and Monty Downs
In response to the letter to the editor regarding tax increases and stalemating new development in Ashcroft, we would like to provide some information to clarify the concerns. Thank you to Mr. Downs and Mr. Berdan for requesting a meeting to gain further information. Both gentlemen are aware that a letter in response to their concerns would be forwarded to the Editor.
The aforementioned letter raises concerns and provides suggestions to resolve the stalemate. Although they may seem like plausible solutions, the legislation governing municipalities does not allow us to act on them. The Community Charter Section 25 (1) states: “Unless expressly authorized under this or another Act, a council must NOT provide a grant, benefit, advantage or other form of assistance to a business…” The Charter then continues to discuss when a council may provide assistance, which mostly speaks to heritage and conservation of heritage properties.
The development property in question does not meet the required criteria for assistance. Further to Charter regulations, the Village’s Subdivision Development and Servicing Bylaw requires the developer to meet certain thresholds, including a calculation of stormwater runoff which determines the size of required culverts. In this case, that calculation has not been completed. To mitigate the issue and to move the development forward, Council directed staff in an open meeting to seek grant funding to not only complete this storm runoff calculation but to also complete a drainage study for north Ashcroft.
The letter suggests this storm runoff calculation should be borne by the residents of Ashcroft and the Village should take responsibility and complete the study. However, it is common practice for developers to assume the costs of the development as they benefit from the profits. The Village fully supports and encourages development and growth, but the established bylaws require a duty of care by the Village, which in this case is to protect the existing properties in the area. Agreeably, this development has been ongoing for too long and approvals should be much more timely; however, if the Village does not follow through with our due diligence, the liability of any future damage due to extreme weather events and potential undersized culverts would rest on the Village. This calculation is not an anomaly, it is a best practice and is standard in all bylaws regulating development across B.C. The developers and the Village are working towards resolving the issues and moving forward.
The letter also suggests if developments could move forward quickly, the necessary growth Ashcroft’s housing market needs could offset the proposed budget increase. That is correct: when new developments are completed, Ashcroft’s tax base is increased and the tax rate may not require an increase. Please keep in mind, the 2020 budget was approved with a tax increase that Council rescinded due to the impact that COVID-19 may have on residents and the CFO adjusted the budget to reflect no increases at Council’s request. This year’s proposed increase offsets the increased commodity costs such as Hydro, gas, fuel, waste (garbage) and insurance, municipalities are not able to operate a deficit budget and we strive to keep the budget as tight as possible.
Council welcomes public input to the budget process. These meetings are scheduled for late April and early May, dates and times of the meetings will be posted on the website. Village staff is here to assist you and do their best to answer any further questions.
Daniela Dyck, CAO
Village of Ashcroft