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Cost of applying to develop in Esquimalt going up

As part of a comprehensive review of outdated bylaws, Esquimalt is planning to increase its development application fees.

The old development fee schedule was passed in 1995 and is “not up to snuff,” Bill Brown, director of development services, told council Dec. 17.

He said staff looked at similar fees in other Greater Victoria municipalities and found the updates are competitive. But he admitted there was “enormous variation” in how municipalities charge for development application fees.

“Because we all use different types of categories, it’s impossible to make direct comparisons,” Brown said.

Council passed the first reading of the updated bylaws and directed staff to forward the documents to relevant stakeholders for feedback. The Esquimalt Residents Association, the Urban Development Institute and the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce will all weigh in on the proposed changes. The township is also accepting public input until Feb. 1.

Coun. Tim Morrison said developers have complained about bureaucratic delays when applying to build in Esquimalt. He said staff should be working to provide incentives for builders.

“We also hear about Langford waiving charges or negotiating reduction (in fees),” Morrison said. “Is there an option there?”

Brown said staff won’t be waiving fees, but said Esquimalt will remain competitive against building boom areas such as Langford.

“A development variance permit in Langford is $1,250. In Esquimalt, it’s $250,” he said.

Mayor Barb Desjardins pointed out that Esquimalt, unlike many municipalities, has no development cost charges. Rather, it’s the cost of land that makes it expensive to develop in township.

“This is information we really need to put together so that we’re very clear, and people understand what we’re saying about costs,” she said.

Coun. Dave Hodgins said the township should be working to entice developers. “We need to be sure we’re treating developers with a lot of respect.”

The new fees accurately reflect the amount of time staff devote to processing development applications, said Coun. Lynda Hundleby.

“I know a lot of these applications do take a lot of staff time and I’m happy to see we’re asking for more money,” she said.

To review the bylaw, visit esquimalt.ca and look under “news releases,” or call Bill Brown at 250-414-7146.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

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