Growth fees coming to Winnipeg on Jan. 1, pending council approval

Winnipeg is moving quickly to implement the new development fees Mayor Brian Bowman says the city needs to cover the cost of growth.

Mayor Brian Bowman, city moving ahead quickly to implement 'impact fees'

Mayor Brian Bowman said he wants to expedite growth-fee discussions. Whether that means bringing in fees in time for 2017 remains unclear. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg is moving quickly to implement the new development fees Mayor Brian Bowman says the city needs to cover the cost of growth.

A report published Friday calls for new "impact fees" to be implemented on Jan. 1, pending executive policy committee approval and a city council vote later this fall. 

The report, authored by city economists Georges Chartier and Tyler Markowsky, calls for the proceeds of the fees to be set aside in an "impact fee reserve" that would be used to pay for capital projects the chief financial officer determines to be growth-related.

The proposed fees would amount to $18,300 for an 1,800-square foot home. They would conservatively total $31 million from residential homes alone in 2017, the report states.

It also states it would take a two-thirds majority of council to approve the use of the reserve funds for something other than growth-related projects.

The report also says the city has the legal authority to implement these fees under Section 5 of the City of Winnipeg Charter, which states the city is responsible for developing safe and orderly communities.

The Pallister government is already studying this opinion.

"The premier has been clear on this matter. Our government was elected on a mandate to lower taxes for Manitobans. We will review the administrative report and seek further legal opinion," said Eileen Clarke, the PC Minister of Indigenous and Municipal Relations.

Exemptions to the fees would be offered to government buildings, public schools, universities and colleges and non-profit organizations. Economic development incentives may also be offered, as well as reduced charges for industrial developments, the report states. 

As well, garages, basements and decks would not be subject to the fees. Nor would affordable housing. 

The report  also states the impact fees should be reviewed after two years.

At a press conference outside his temporary office in the administration building at city hall, Bowman said Winnipeg has mulled the idea of instituting growth fees for far too long. He said there is no point debating the issue further simply for the sake of debate.

"I want to be clear, this is not a new debate. As a city, we have already spent years discussing this and I don't feel the need to spend further years discussing it. Delay for the sake of delay is not on my agenda," Bowman said. 

The report is scheduled come before executive policy committee on Wednesday. Bowman said he is amenable to putting off a decision on the report until an unspecified later date in order to allow changes to be made. For example, the mayor said he'd like to see some form of exemption for infill development.

The timing of the report was a surprise, considering Bowman promised further consultations with the development community.

The mayor said that could still happen. Winnipeg's development community, however, is skeptical any meaningful consultations will take place.

"The mayor told us on Monday he wanted more dialogue, then four days later he releases a final report. We're disappointed the city doesn't seem to care how this will impact the hundreds of firms and thousands of Winnipeggers working in the construction industry," said Colin Fast, communications and policy manager for the Winnipeg Construction Association.

Qualico vice-president Eric Vogan said he still believes budget concerns are driving the mayor to push for the fees.

"Well I think that irrespective of his spoken desire for consultation, he wants to get something done now," Vogan said at Qualico's headquarters in Sage Creek. "From everything I see, it's because he sees operating deficits at the city that are unrelated to growth."

Bowman said he has no intention of using the new reserve to pay for anything but growth-related projects. But neither he nor council finance chairman Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo) will commit to holding the line on regular infrastructure funding next year, meaning it remains possible the fees could be used to backfill the operating budget.

South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes, who sits on EPC, said she would not support the fees if it came to a vote today.

She expressed concern the city's finance department, not the city's planning department, is overseeing the growth-fee initiative.

"I'd like to see a little more about planning and I'd like to see the planning folks out here a little more," she said. "Maybe in this 'do the report, do the study, then consult' process that we seem to be moving to on this topic, maybe we'll hear more from the planning department."

She said she too is surprised how quickly city staff produced the report. A growth-fee study by consulting firm Hemson was concluded on Sept. 1 — the same day the report by Chartier and Markowsky was completed.

Documents obtained by CBC Manitoba reveal city staff were working on their report in August. 

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Before joining CBC Manitoba, Bartley Kives spent most of his career in journalism at the Winnipeg Free Press, covering politics, music, food, the environment and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.