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Cochrane council approves updates to off-site levies

"I'm excited about the opportunities it presents in terms of setting the platform for our future," Reed said.

COCHRANE— A new off-site levy bylaw designed to help fund future growth in town was approved by Cochrane Council at the regular council meeting Monday (July 12).

Under the changes to the bylaw, the average levy will increase from $264,909 to $389,762 on the low end and $301,533 to $326,945 on the high end.

"Having an up-to-date Off-Site Levy Bylaw is of critical importance to us," said Town of Cochrane general manager Drew Hyndman. "It's probably one of our more important tools as we move forward on considered development."

After accounting for the new infrastructure and the proposed adjustment to the voluntary levy, the overall levy costs for new developments ranges from a decrease of 0.3 per cent to an increase of 3.52 per cent, depending on the development area.

The Off-Site Levy Bylaw includes $184 million in capital projects within Cochrane for the next 20 years. The projects are a direct result of growth in the town and will be financed in whole or in part by the town. An additional $9 million in projects to be initially funded by developers is also included.

These changes to levies are based on growth assumptions for the town. The last change to the Off-Site Levy Bylaw occurred in May 2018.

The new off-site levies range between $270,772/Ha and $323,485/Ha, depending on the development area. This is an increase from the current off-site levies, which range between $241,449/Ha and $278,073/Ha. In conjunction with the Off-Site Levy Bylaw update, the community enhancement fee was also removed which can be collected through an off-site levy. Any items not covered by the levy can be rolled into the Parks Development Fee at an average of $23,460/Ha.

The levy bylaw impacts 17 development areas and numerous areas of infrastructure including— Three new highway intersections, the River Heights reservoir, the removal of the Community Enhancement Fee and the Centre Avenue grade-separated project, the future widening of the Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge, updated project costs, including the Protective Services Building and Highway 1A projects, updated grant funding assumptions for the wastewater pipeline project, updated inflation and borrowing interest rates to reflect current and anticipated economic impacts and opportunities for developers to front-end qualifying intersection projects ahead of full levies being collected for them.

Mayor Jeff Genung noted this is the second time Cochrane has looked at the Off-Site Levy Bylaw since the Municipal Government Act was modernized in 2017.

"There are other things that we see coming down the stream that we can adapt and change and make the bylaw fit or suit that," Genung said. 

Cochrane's off-site levy rate falls in line with regional comparisons with Cochrane sitting at $284,564/Ha, excluding community amenities. Airdrie falls at $242,503/Ha, Chestermere sits at $199,502/Ha, Okotoks sits at $198,608/Ha and Calgary sits at $410,722/Ha.

The updated bylaw was first presented at the Committee of the Whole meeting on June 21 and given first reading on June 28.

Councillor Tara McFadden said ensuring the Town's Off-Site Levy Bylaw is of critical importance to ensuring growth in Cochrane, and its associated infrastructure upgrades pay for themselves.

"I think this update reflects what numbers are looking like right now and what it's looking like in the future," McFadden said.

Coun. Alex Reed described the update to off-site levies as one of the most important recent accomplishments of Cochrane Council.

The fees play a pivotal role in the community's future, he said, adding he appreciates the hearty conversations that have taken place regarding the levy bylaw.

"I'm excited about the opportunities it presents in terms of setting the platform for our future," Reed said.

Chelsea Kemp

About the Author: Chelsea Kemp

Chelsea Kemp joined the Cochrane Eagle in 2020 as editor, bringing with her experience as a reporter and photojournalist. She writes about politics, health care, arts and entertainment and Indigenous stories.
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