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Most councillors support phased-in growth fees plan

Eight members of council plan to vote for Coun. Orlikow's revisions to Bowman's growth fees plan, while four do not.

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi

Metro file

Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Jenny Gerbasi

Most Winnipeg councillors are backing a loudly contested growth fees plan.

On Monday, Metro spoke with 10 councillors on their thoughts about the new plan, which was reintroduced last week with several changes recommended, including:

• a later start date

• reduced fees

• a three-year phase-in approach-- which would outlast this current council-- and a working group to determine how fees could be levied on commercial, industrial and infill properties. 

Eight councillors: Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre), Matt Allard (St. Boniface), Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas), Marty Morantz (Charleswood), Ross Eadie (Mynarksi), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) and Brian Mayes (St. Vital) said they plan to vote in favour of the fees at Wednesday’s executive policy committee, next week’s council meeting or both.

On Monday, Gerbasi applauded the plan to study the impact of fees on infill developments. She's also in favour of levying the first charges on new residences in 13 new communities on the outskirts of the city, such as Waverley West, Sage Creek and in south St. Boniface.

“This is being led by the city. This is showing leadership as opposed to just being pushed by the development industry to give them a break, which is unfortunately happened for far too long,” she said. 

Mayes also spoke in support of the city’s approach, pointing out that it includes provisions to introduce charges to more areas than just the suburbs.

On the contrary, Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) called it, “taxation without representation,” saying the revenue from growth fees should be reinvested back into the areas where properties pay and not collected into a a general fund, where he believes it will fund Bowman’s “pet projects.”

“It’s one massive political slush fund for this mayor to get re-elected,” said Wyatt, accusing the city of targeting communities that are “success stories”

Councillors Janice Lukes (St. Norbet) and Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan)--who are members of Bowman’s inner circle--said they plan to vote down the plan on Wednesday, citing a rushed process and lack of certainty around growth fee calculations, respectively.

Lukes vehemently believes the city wasted an opportunity to honestly consult with members of the development community and now is at risk of facing costly legal battles. 

Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James Brooklands) said that he too will not be supporting the plan, citing a backwards consultation process and continued disagreement over the calculation of the fees and the city's growth-related infrastructure costs.

“I think the goals are unclear. Are impact fees a revenue tool or are they a planning tool,” said Gillingham.

Dobson, who will vote for the plan, said he will pitch council on an amendment to establish a second working group that would include industry members and recommended where growth fee revenue should be spent. 

The reason, he says, is out of concern the revenue would be put to capital projects prioritized by political will, rather than need. 

Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) said on Monday he was undecided on his vote, while Coun. Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan.)

Metro did not contact Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry), who proposed the amended plan after a 23-day consultation period with industry members and colleagues, as well as Mayor Brian Bowman who’s settled into the tagline 'Growth does not pay for growth.'

Metro predicts the amended growth fees plan will pass Bowman's executive policy committee by a vote of 5-2. 

This story will be updated as councillors respond. 

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