Ottawa

City relieved to keep collecting developer fees for parks, libraries

New provincial regulations have taken effect that dictate the fees the City of Ottawa can collect from developers to pay for city services, and they've turned out to be far less restrictive than municipalities originally feared.

Ontario's new regulations walk back many earlier proposals

A subdivision outside Richmond village in Ottawa is seen under construction in May 2020. (Kate Porter/CBC)

New provincial regulations have taken effect that dictate the fees the City of Ottawa can collect from developers to pay for city services, and they've turned out to be far less restrictive than municipalities originally feared.

When Bill 108 was first proposed at Queen's Park in spring 2019, aimed at cutting red tape for home builders, municipalities across Ontario spoke out.

They said they stood to lose access to millions of dollars for community benefits, if they were only allowed to collect money from developers for such things as roads and pipes, but not for the so-called "soft" services new developments require, such as libraries and parks.

But more than a year later, the Ontario government reversed many of the elements that municipalities had fought by way of a second wide-reaching bill, July's COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act. New regulations took effect Sept. 18.

"Bill 108 was confounding. It's almost as though the people who write these bills don't actually know anything about the 444 municipalities in Ontario," Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt remarked at Ottawa's agricultural and rural affairs committee Thursday, where councillors heard an update about the provincial changes.

"If they want to use COVID as a cover for amending Bill 108, so be it. But those changes needed to happen because they were detrimental to the operation of a municipality."

Longer list of services covered

The final list of services for which municipalities are allowed to collect money through development charges has grown much longer than had been in the original Bill 108, explained Garett Schromm from the city's legal department.

Development charges can now go toward child care services, housing services, bylaw enforcement, libraries, public health, long-term care and running parks and recreation, he said, in addition to such things as transit, waste and policing.

The city will likely also replace its current practice of allowing developers taller buildings in exchange for money for affordable housing and community gardens, a tool known as Section 37. Instead, the planning department will come up with a new "community benefits" bylaw that the province states can only be applied to buildings at least five storeys tall and with at least 10 units.

Bill 108 had intended to scrap the city's ability to collect money from high-rise developments instead of requiring land be set aside for parks, and city staff were glad to see that reversed.

Finally, the regulations expand the powers of the Ontario's minister of municipal affairs to make orders related to zoning, a job that is usually the municipality's. Such orders have become more frequent in the GTA, but it's not clear what they will mean for Ottawa, said Schromm.

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