Revelstoke’s proposed new ‘cost recovery’ fees and charges bylaw got a lukewarm reception at city council, including several specific criticisms, and general opposition from two councillors.
A staff recommendation was for second and third readings of the bylaw, but it was held up at second reading, and staff will now set up a public information session sometime in March to clarify outstanding issues.
The new bylaw moves charges for city services like building and fire inspections to a ‘cost-recovery’ model. It includes many new fees, especially for fire inspections. It also increases many fees charged by the city, often dramatically.
Coun. Tony Scarcella said the new fees and charges would hurt people and businesses and that there hadn’t been enough public consultation. He noted changes to fees for community centre rentals, saying the city was “charging four-star rent” for a “one-and-a-half star facility.”
Scarcella said the bylaw would have “huge impacts to business and taxpayers” and that, “we [didn’t] have enough time for the people to look at it.”
Coun. Gary Starling also expressed philosophical issues with the bylaw. “I think it is unfair that we move to something of that nature so quickly,” Starling said. He worried increases to building permits for renovations would drive those improvement projects underground. “We should revisit them for sure,” he said.
“Some of the things, obviously, we have to cover the costs,” Starling said of the fees. “Some of them should be considered a community service and the city should take on those costs.” He added that a “balance” needed to be struck. “I’m not seeing that here.”
He cited certain amended variance fees as an example, noting it would cost residents hundreds more for a procedure that is often just a housekeeping issue on irregularly sized lots.
Mayor David Raven also had concerns around particulars: “I don’t think that council should be providing any kind of disincentive to future development and growth,” Raven said. “And I was a bit concerned that some of the fees may be perceived as restrictive to future growth, particularly around housing. It’s just not something that we want to be discouraging in any way.”
Coun. Chris Johnston defended the proposed bylaw. He said there had been ample consultation at various stages over the past year since council embarked on plans to move to a ‘cost recovery’ model. He said the issue was communication, saying maybe the general public didn’t yet have a full understanding of “who is paying and who isn’t paying.”
He also noted a lack of major opposition from developers: “I think that the building community … has not really expressed any major concern that I’ve heard of, anyway.”
City planning director John Guenther also said there had been lots of consultation through committees, community groups and advertising as the fee schedules were developed.
He noted plans for the cost recovery model had been moving forward for a year and a half. “If council wants to take another approach here than a philosophy based on cost recovery, then staff needs direction,” Guenther said.
He also added that the fees were in line with other municipalities, and despite the ‘cost recovery’ wording, the services were still subsidized: “This is not full cost recovery, if it were full cost recovery, you’d see a 10-time increase.”
The staff recommendation was for second and third readings of the bylaw, but it was held up at second reading, and staff will now set up a council workshop and a public information session before the end of March.
The bylaw did contain some minor revisions since it was last presented to council in January. Most notably, a proposed $140 tree removal fee was struck from the bylaw.
To read the latest version of the bylaw, follow this link and then click on agenda item 8e.