Town council approved the Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) bylaw during a special meeting Nov. 29, paving the way for the municipality to retain $13 million from the province for capital projects in Cochrane’s downtown core.
The CRL is a one-time opportunity for the town to redirect the education portion of collected property taxes to enhance a specific CRL area. These funds would otherwise be seized by the province in the form of an education tax, but if utilized properly would instead be targeted to support the cleanup and redevelopment of ‘brownfield sites.’
The secret for success with the CRL program is to focus in on areas and structures that would see the most significant assessment increase once refurbishment is complete; in Cochrane’s case, the Quarry site best meets such a criteria.
The final step in the process is for the province to approve the town’s CRL bylaw, at which point shovels can hit the dirt.
The area being identified encompasses 25.3 hectares, including the Quarry site and several pockets of land off the northwest corner of the site.
Four projects have been identified for the CRL land; public space improvements being the first to be tackled, should the province approve the bylaw.
The extension of Grande Blvd. north to Railway St. and the development of landscaping and sidewalks along sections of Railway and Charlesworth Ave. are two examples of what the town will be looking to improve upon come the end of December, which is when Paige Milner, senior manager of corporate services for the town, hopes the province will finalize the plan.
“I’m very optimistic,” said Milner, adding that the town has been in discussions with the provincial government for over a year. “This is not something new.”
Among various esthetic upgrades, the extension to Grande Blvd. will include two lanes for shared vehicle and bicycle transportation as well as two additional lanes for on-street parking.
The estimated expenditure for public space improvements is $3 million.
A CP Rail pedestrian crossing ($4 million), a contribution to the future Arts Centre ($3 million) and a shared parking facility ($3 million) make up the remainder of the total CRL money.
Milner said the last assessment of the Quarry site indicated its value at $700,000, but that that appraisal was conducted prior to the area’s remediation, which was completed just over a year ago.
The appraisal value of the entire CRL area is just shy of $6.5 million.
Town administration made a conservative estimate that upon completion of the CRL revitalization the area could see an assessment value of $123 million.
The next assessment for the land is scheduled for this coming January.
Milner said the town could be poised to garner anywhere from $4.7million to $6 million in additional tax money collected from businesses within the CRL area once property values increase following refurbishments. This amount is in addition to the regular municipal taxes normally collected from the area, which ranges from $9 million to $12 million, all of which can be used for further infrastructure upgrades in the area.
“These are not additional taxes on those property owners,” Milner said in April. “It’s not taxes above the taxes they would normally pay. They’ll be the same taxes as any other residential property, it’s just the values that are there now when they go up significantly with all the development that’s going to go on there, it’s the future taxes that will stay within the levy.”
Initially, however, the town will need to borrow approximately $3 million to get shovels in the ground and started on the more crucial projects, but believe the tab will be covered by taxes collected from within the CRL boundary.
“This is a financial opportunity from our perspective,” said Milner.
The project has a maximum 20-year lifespan; at that time, taxes collected from the area will no longer be directed to CRL projects.
The CRL bylaw’s flexibility is another asset for Milner, as it allows for the movement of funds to go toward what is needed most in the designated CRL area.
All monies collected from the CRL must be used in the CRL area and cannot be used on any other projects outside its boundaries.
Calgary and Edmonton are the only other two municipalities in Alberta to have taken advantage of the CRL program.