Next council must nail down issues: builder
By IAN MCINROY BARRIE EXAMINER September 17 2010
The future of Barrie’s construction industry rests in the hands of the next mayor and council.
The eight candidates running for Barrie mayor shared their views about election issues Thursday night during a meeting hosted by the Canadian Home Builders’ Association Simcoe County.
James Bazely, president of the Ontario Home Builders’ Association and a local home builder, said the next mayor and council should be aware of the challenges facing the construction industry.
“One of our big concerns is the speed in which the annexed Innisfil lands will come to fruition. We’re four or five years out before we can start building there and that’s not fast enough,” he said.
“I’m certainly a proponent of growing that new section of the city in a responsible manner. There are many environmental aspects we need to consider because the area is new to us,” Bazely said. “We need to develop whole, sustainable communities wisely, but we need to do it as fast as we can.”
Bazely said there have been three years of poor housing starts due to the recession and that the once-thriving local homebuilding industry could use a kick start.
“We want to get back to doing what we do: building homes for people who want to live in Barrie. One way of stimulating our industry would be to open the relief valve a little bit and open up lands which are immediately adjacent to Barrie for development. The infrastructure is in place,” he said.
The city’s development charges were another big issue for members of the construction industry at the meeting.
“In Barrie, development charges cost about $32,000 per property for a detached house. Places like Kitchener/Waterloo are $18,000 because of their industrial commercial base,” Bazely said, adding that new home buyers are being asked to pick up too much of the tab for new infrastructure and facilities such as a new firehall and recreation centre in southern parts of the city.
“We want those facilities but the city wants new home buyers to pay for it all. Let’s not be afraid to face the reality that those who reside in the area already will also enjoy the benefit of new facilities, so new home buyers shouldn’t have to foot the entire bill,” he said.
The local construction industry has a problem with city projects being given out to contractors outside the city, Bazely said.
“They need the opportunity to bid on industrial, commercial and institutional projects that City Hall is funding.
“An important thing for us, as we come out of a recession, is to have the city involved as a strategic partner,” he said.
“We’d love to have a bit more co-operation with City Hall and we don’t want to feel like we’re butting heads and in opposition all the time.”
Bazely said while the mayor has only one vote on council and is part of the decision making process, “he can change the culture at City Hall.”