News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg's growth fees plan put on hold 'indefinitely'

The executive policy committee voted to delay a decision on the report Wednesday.

Dozens of developers from various business sectors sat shoulder-to-shoulder with city staff in a packed meeting of the executive policy committee on Wednesday.

Stephanie Taylor/Metro

Dozens of developers from various business sectors sat shoulder-to-shoulder with city staff in a packed meeting of the executive policy committee on Wednesday.

Time will only tell when mayor Brian Bowman's inner circle will give their a stamp of approval to bring growth fees to Winnipeg.

On Wednesday, members of his executive policy committee unanimously voted to delay the matter "indefinitely," a word used by to Coun. John Orlikow, chairman of the planning, property and development committee and Bowman's right-hand man on the issue. 

While speaking to reporters afterwards, Bowman provided no timeline as to when a future vote could happen, except that it would not be before next week's council meeting. 

He also provided no certainty as to whether the delayed vote means any change to the proposed implementation date of Jan.1, 2017, which a city report outlines.

“Any date is possible," Bowman said.

For Mike Moore, president of the Manitoba Home Builders' Association, 'indefinitely' will mean October unless that start date changes. 

After Wednesday, Bowman said Orlikow will continue to lead the charge on talking with industry members and councillors before bringing the matter back to city hall. 

“People assume what they want and time will tell, but again, at this point, my belief is that I can’t give you an exact date," Orlikow told reporters after the meeting. 

"If we’re going to have a real conversation, let’s see what’s out there.”

Orlikow said councillors are invited to a meeting on Friday where they can discuss areas of the report that need more work. 

The impact of levying growth charges on new commercial developments is one of five categories in mind, he said. 

More consideration will likely also be given to granting exemptions to infill developments, which is an issue Bowman raised again on Wednesday. 

Although no instructions have been publicly given to city staff, he believes changes will be made to the current report, which largely mirrors a growth study conducted by the firm Hemson Consulting. 

On Tuesday, John Kiernan, the city's director of planning, hinted that possible direction was expected from the committee to make the growth fees plan more "nuanced."

If the report's growth fees plan is approved as is, a developer could pay upwards of $18,300 to build a 1,800 square-foot single residential home.

Bowman reiterated the fees are not being considered as a part of budget planning for 2017, despite allegations by some, such as Eric Vogan, a vice-president at Qualico, that the revenue will be used to balance the books. 

Before Wednesday's vote, 13 developers and business leaders took turns giving committee members an earful about the city's lack of transparency and improper consultation. 

They slammed the planning process as being rushed, ill-advised and short sighted of what impacts new fees could have on development in our city. 

Tim Comack of Ventura Developments criticized the consultation as "disingenuous," calling it an "assault" on the industry.

He said the New Year's Day start date shows a severe lack of understanding and compassion for local developers.

Moore added there have only been four meetings about the plan in the last nine months.

He urged councillors to send the issue back to the drawing table and have a "constructive dialogue."

After the meeting, Moore handed out copies of a new study presented by the association and the Urban Development Institute that refutes the city's findings. 

Kathryn Graham of Genstar Development Company echoed that when she told Wednesday's committee many of the growth calculations and population forecasts used by the city and consultant are disputable. 

"There were some who were saying, ‘Make a decision sooner than later because of the market uncertainty,' others were saying, 'Let’s discuss and debate this for years to come,'" Bowman said later of the presenters.

"Obviously we will be seeking an appropriate balance.”