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Coalhurst Fees and Rates Bylaw awaiting third reading

Posted on January 4, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

A new Fees and Rates bylaw for Coalhurst is waiting on its third and final reading.

Presented during Coalhurst town council’s regular Dec. 19 meeting, Town CAO Shawn Patience said the bylaw was given an overhaul in terms of updating some rate structures and replacing other antiquated rate structures. There were also some minor adjustments to utility rates, clarifications on development applications, security deposits on demolition permits, and a penalty section, among others.

“This Fees and Rates bylaw is a brand new bylaw for the Town of Coalhurst. In 2023, previously it was fees were just kind of found everywhere. This brought everything all together into one (bylaw) last year, and this is just a continuation of work and trying to pull some of those things that may have been overlooked last year and brought into this as well,” said Mike Passey, director of corporate services for the Town. 

“We also reviewed a number of similar municipalities in southern Alberta, so our rates weren’t excessive or way below what anyone else charges,” said Patience, noting things like land use bylaw amendments can be onerous on municipality staff. “These rates are very comparable to other municipalities in our area, for those types of amendments, and it is typically because of the time it takes to review them, and do the (review), advertise the public hearing, et cetera.”

Coun. Heather Caldwell asked if the Town did not have a reciprocal business license through Community Futures with their neighbouring communities. Patience said while they did have a reciprocal business license, or MOU, it is not done through Community Futures. It was done with a group of regional partners.

“It was done independently of Community Futures, so we don’t have that fee in here because there’s no fee particularly for it,” said Patience. “But it is something we acknowledge. Anyone who has a resident business license in any one of our partnering communities can use that license to work in any of our partnering towns.

Patience said as they move forward, they might consider putting a “small fee” on being part of that regional program. He said this practice is common in southwestern Alberta, and the fee is often used for marketing the municipalities and the reciprocal business license.

Coun. Jesse Potrie was in favour of deleting a section on Penalties for Commencement of Development without a Development Permit, noting that administration has no information as to how these rates were developed.

“When you look at the penalty versus the cost of a permit, some of them are huge, right? The permit is only $225 for, say, a residential permit, but the fee is $2,000, which is 10 times the cost,” said Potrie, noting his research in places like Toronto shows that their fees are double the permit cost. “They seem to be a lot out of line. I don’t want to scare people away from developing in Coalhurst.”

“I would rather have us be comparable to other municipalities in the area.”

Patience said he didn’t think the section was done with “folly”, noting that when the Town had little to no penalties, they had the problem of many developments proceeding without any permits. Instead of deleting the section, he suggested they put a clause in that anyone without an appropriate permit had to pay something like triple the permit cost, so they have some form of enforcement ability.

Mayor Lyndsay Montina suggested they leave the bylaw as is until they could look into it more.

Council passed a motion for first reading of the 2024 Fees & Rates Bylaw.

Council defeated a motion to delete the Penalties for Development without a Development Permit section from Schedule A of Bylaw 449-23.

Council passed a motion to amend the bylaw to read that penalties for commencement without a Development Permit be two times the permit fee.

Council passed a motion to perform second reading of Bylaw 449-23, as amended. 

Council could not unanimously perform third and final reading of the bylaw, so it did not pass. Caldwell, who voted against third reading, said it was “just a very quick, throwing numbers out there just to get it in place, and I think we just need some time to process that information, and see if perhaps there’s another number we want to have in there.”

The bylaw will return to council during their first January meeting, set for Jan. 2, 2024. Passey said if the bylaw is not passed before utility bills go out in January, then the revenues for those areas “have the potential of not being reached.”

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