Opponents decry Rocky View County as CAVE men: ‘Citizens Against Virtually Everything’
A far-reaching increase in off-site transportation levy could be a road to nowhere for business, according to a collection of Rocky View County developers and land owners.
Used to fund improvements in the transportation network, generally in subdivisions and new developments, County engineering services have offered a preliminary proposal of a 440 per cent increase in off-site levy over the next four years.
Prompted by a Rocky View council’s request, the proposal put up an immediate road block for members of Rocky View 2020.
“When you look at a 500 per cent proposed increase over five years, you may as well put up a sign that says, ‘We have just become a non-business-friendly environment,’” said 2020 executive director Bruce McAllister.
“We have a province that is starving right now for growth, an economy that needs to be spurred along, and we have an administration that is proposing stifling growth and job creation.”
“I would challenge that statement that we would be closed for business.”
The projected figure came about by reducing an assumed development area by approximately 65 per cent, or 470,000 acres. Less taxable land drove up the cost per acre of road improvements, pushing the levy from $4,592 per acre to $24,543 per acre by 2019, increasing 25 per cent each year.
Those numbers are comparable to the City of Calgary transportation levy, said Rocky View County engineering services manager Rick Wiljamaa.
“I would challenge that statement that we would be closed for business,” he said.
He added the original bylaw, which has gone through several revisions in the past, has always had a very large number for developable acres in the magnitude of 700,000 acres.
The County received feedback during an open house in July and are encouraging public opinion through its website until Sept. 1.
Another forum is in the works before a revised plan goes to council this fall.
“Our council has always been very firm, at least to this point, that development needs to pay for the cost of development,” said Wiljamaa.
“If that road network is required because (of) development, than the development industry is expected to pay for it.”
The proposal was a wake-up call for the pro-business, pro-agriculture organization, Rocky View 2020, said McAllister. Established in 2013 and made up of developers, homeowners, landowners and former elected officials, the organization’s ongoing concern is with future, affordable development in the county with less government involvement, he said.
“Development does pay for development,” said McAllister. “A certain fee there is reasonable, but in their formula, I would say the numerator and denominator don’t make any sense at all. They’ve taken the developable land down from 60 per cent of the County.”
The former Chestermere MLA added Rocky View 2020, numbering around 400 members, have decades of experience in nurturing their opinions on the future direction of County development. McAllister feels the original proposal was driven by anti-development, anti-business groups bent on stifling growth.
“I refer them as CAVE men, standing for Citizens Against Virtually Everything,” he said. “These people have influenced some of the thinking on council, and former council, from trying to impede business from moving forward.
“They didn’t just get the attention of land owners in Rocky View County. They’ve got the attention of land owners in the province.”
Still welcoming public opinion through the Rocky View County website, Wiljamaa expects numbers to decrease from the initial transportation levy draft. He said they will be listening to all concerns on the proposed levy increases, including those from the development industry.
“We’ve received a number of comments and now we’re in the process of revising that bylaw to account for some of those comments,” he said. “You will see something that is completely different before it goes to council.”