Nova Scotia

New homes will cost thousands more with development charge

The Halifax Regional Water Commission has won regulatory approval to impose a new development charge that will raise the cost of new homes by thousands of dollars.
The development fee was around $1,600 per home, but Halifax Water wants to increase it to $6,000. (CBC) (CBC)

The Halifax Regional Water Commission has won regulatory approval to impose a new development charge that will raise the cost of new homes by thousands of dollars.

The regional development charge consolidates a variety of sewer and water fees into a single, higher charge.

It was bitterly opposed by the development industry, which complained of shoddy treatment by the utility during the consultations.

The original application would add up to $6,000 to the cost of each new home.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board ruled in favour of Halifax Water on Thursday, although noting "the RDCs approved by the board in this decision will be less than those requested."

Halifax Water spokesman James Campbell said the exact cost won't be known for several weeks.

The three-member panel concluded: "The board finds that there is a need for an RDC and that it should be based on the principle that growth pays for growth."

It reduced the development charge - by calculating it on an estimate of infrastructure needs over 20 years rather than 30 years in the original application.

The charge will be levied at the building permit stage. On properties where the development charge is over $100,000, developers will pay 75 per cent. For the first time Halifax Water will be allowed to impose a lien on the remaining 25 per cent.

The charge will be recalculated every five years.

The regulator did chide the utility for the way it consulted.

Days after the Halifax Water board approved its final application it held a consultation with industry. The regulator denied an application by the environmental group Ecology Action Centre to have $2,760 in costs covered.

The board said it had little use for the environmentalists' campaign against urban sprawl, which the board said was the responsibility of the city not the water utility.

"The cross-examination carried out by the EAC at the hearing was of little or no consequence with respect to the relevant issues," read the decision "Similarly, the closing submissions strayed from the relevant issues."