On July 17, Urban Systems, a company that is a paying member of the UDI development lobby, advised Saanich on policy regarding community amenity contributions (CACs), density bonuses and cash in lieu. They also mentioned that land-lift/upzoning could increase value by 50%.
As reported in the Saanich News, council approved a reduction in the CAC rate by 60% that night.
The UDI has lobbied Saanich extensively for reductions in CACs and DCCs (development cost charges) and one UDI member company has offered some pretty lowball figures for cash in lieu of payments for dozens of potential tree removals, despite that the local action plan states quite clearly: “Retain existing tree canopy cover where possible.”
Urban Systems was paid by Saanich on the “Community Amenity Housing Program” and the “DCC Bylaw Program Review and Development” over $469,000 combined total over the last five years.
I could have saved the district that entire amount with a bit of free advice: don’t give developers and speculators a bunch of discounts, they aren’t the ones who need it.
Instead, Saanich looked to a development lobby member for advice on these issues at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, when the same lobby was already offering similar advice (and a lot of it) for free!
When I recently asked a councillor to clarify the meaning of cash in lieu, I was informed: “Cash in lieu usually refers to a situation where instead of meeting the requirements of a policy the alternative is to provide cash in lieu.”
Notwithstanding the undefined term being left in its supposed definition; if that is the case, I’m left wondering what the point of having policies actually is, if they can in some instances be circumvented through monetary contributions.
The fiscal future for Saanich does not look optimistic. To quote from a 2022 Saanich Financial Report carried out by KPMG: “Total debt is projected to increase from $52 million in 2022 to $263 million in 2031, representing an average increase of 41% per year.” What do you think will happen to your taxes then?