St. John's Board of Trade wants 'holiday' from city's development fees

The St. John's Board of Trade is asking the city to give businesses a break when it comes to development fees.

Original intention of fee was for green spaces

Dorothy Keating is chair of the St. John's Board of Trade. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The St. John's Board of Trade wants a break from development fees from the City of St. John's.

"We think it's time for a holiday so that we can drive some development and some growth around the city to help turn around what's occurring here in terms of our economics right now," Dorothy Keating, chair of the St. John's Board of Trade, told CBC Radio's On the Go.

These development fees were introduced in 2010 to go toward building green space in the city, though Keating said in 2013 the city changed the rules so the money could also go toward general revenue.

"In 2013 those fees were doubled. They've collected over $7 million in fees since its inception," Keating said.

"So if you have, for example, a 45,000 square foot building, you're going to pay about $75,000 in development fees on that building development."

Keating said development in the city is down, and these fees are a disincentive for businesses.

The City of St. John's says it is aware of the Board of Trade's request and will be meeting with them in December. (CBC)

"In 2014 there was over $170 million of value of property built in the city. In 2017 that's down [to] just over $100 million. That's almost half," she said.

"I think the $7 million that the city has obtained from the builders is certainly a significant amount of money for green space and it's time for a holiday."

New building development is a sign of economic prosperity, Keating said. And though there are commercial vacancies throughout the City of St. John's, that shouldn't deter development.

"There's many reasons why vacancies are where they are in different areas of the city, and when we look to economic prosperity and us moving ourselves out of this [economic downturn], then we need to be in growth mode and we need to be in this type of an environment, and the city should be working with businesses to do this," Keating said.

"It is in the best interest of all the residents in the city that we have businesses coming into the city and driving the economy of the City of St. John's."

City response

While no one from the City of St. John's was available for an interview, a spokesperson did provide a statement to CBC News.

"The city is aware of the Board of Trade's request regarding development fees and will be meeting with the Board of Trade, along with other business groups, during the city business roundtable," the statement read.

"This meeting will take place in advance of the budget release in December."

WIth files from On the Go