Growth Fees – Update #3

Prior to being elected in 2014, I had worked with departments and leaders at the City of Winnipeg for 14 years on a wide range of community focused initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for all Winnipeggers.  For anyone who’s ever worked with a large institution/bureaucracy, you know it can be a challenging and time consuming experience for a wide range of reasons (ie: inter-departmental communication, process, priorities, resourcing, funding, etc.).  For the projects I worked on, I found that persistence, innovative approaches, archiving e-mails and good communication were all key to achieving timely end results.

As an ‘outsider’ to the City’s system during these 14 years, I observed a wide range of approaches used by departments and leaders to expedite ‘getting the job done’.  Often, I found it challenging to understand the City’s logic and approach on certain projects (ie: route determination of rapid transit, location selection of fire halls, prioritization of roadway development, etc.).  Even reading the resulting audit reports left me with questions unanswered.

The implementation of growth fees is being led by the Mayor, Councillor Orlikow (Chair of Property and Development, Heritage and Downtown Development) and the City’s Finance Department. As a member of City Council and the Executive Policy Committee, I have input into the process but am not leading the process.

To be frank, as I have been in my previous blog, I continue to express concerns about the process being used to determine if growth pays for growth and ultimately what the cost of growth would be. I continue to express these concerns to the Mayor and Council colleagues.

I strongly believe the introduction of something of this magnitude, with the potential to be transformative in the way the City deals with the infrastructure deficit, requires detailed consideration, time, analysis, and meaningful conversations with stakeholders and the public.

In my opinion, the process moving forward to implement growth fees is occurring at a rapid speed – which is uncharacteristic in most bureaucracies.

The Hemson reports were released during the summer prorogue period, and I am reading and re-reading two documents:

  1. HEMSON Review of Municipal Growth Financing Mechanisms
  2. HEMSON Determination of Regulatory Fees to Finance Growth: Technical Report

At this point in the growth fees discussion, we have:

  • The Hemson report which states Winnipeg’s growth does not pay for growth, with a list of specific infrastructure projects identified and a defined growth fee to support projected future growth
  • Stakeholders and City building partners who believe they have been left out of the engagement process and are now adversarial in their discussions

As I continue to re-read the Hemson reports, I have many questions that I need to resolve:

  • Do I trust the information/value the Hemson report is bringing forward?
  • Does a robust stakeholder engagement process matter?
  • Does trust with partners in the development community have impact on the implementation of a growth fee?
  • Is all growth created equally? Does all growth cost the same?  Should there be exemptions?
  • If a fee is implemented, is it phased in similar to other municipalities?
  • We are trying to play catch up on a 14-year tax freeze; should growth fees play a role in history?
  • What mechanisms would be in place to determine how growth fee funding is allocated?
  • Plus literally hundreds of other questions.

Introducing growth fees should be driven by the need for good planning and funding good growth. In the last few days since the reports were released, I’ve reached out to many in the community to discuss this issue, and welcome any input you may have. For whatever reason, the growth fee discussion is moving at a rapid speed, which concerns me.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss:  E-mail jlukes@winnipeg.ca or call 204-986-6824.

 

 

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