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Development fees issue rears up

In Orillia
Oct 14th, 2010

Mayoral candidates spar over charges
Development charges remain one of the top issues in this municipal election, according to mayoral candidate Ralph Cipolla, who says his opponents are on the wrong track.

Cipolla’s stance on the development charges — which were increased by 21.2% — is to “stay the course.”
“If any development is allowed to either reduce or drop the development charges, it automatically increases the residential tax on homeowners,” he said, citing a previous comment from the city treasurer, who said development costs would have to be covered through taxation if not development charges. “It’s important we get this out so voters can make an informed decision.”
Cipolla noted mayoral candidate Angelo Orsi is part of a group of people from the development community challenging the city’s development charges at the Ontario Municipal Board. A press release from Cipolla stated the “business interests for which (Orsi) is fighting are diametrically opposed to the interests of property taxpayers.”
Cipolla also took mayoral hopeful Tim Lauer to task for his stance. Lauer has called for a two-year moratorium on industrial development charges.
“It has not worked in other municipalities… to discount the development charges. What it has done is increase taxes in residential,” Cipolla said.
Cipolla “doesn’t understand a moratorium,” Lauer responded.
“That’s the reason I like this idea. I’m traditionally opposed to any development charges ending up on the residential tax levy,” he said. “This puts a two-year sunset on them.”
If the moratorium were in place, the lost fees would be covered from reserves, Lauer noted.
“What we are proposing is an aggressive action through the reallocation of existing resources, not adding to the tax burden,” he said, adding, “Mr. Cipolla’s vague promise that he ‘would pursue economic development strategies that position Orillia for success in the new economy where the real opportunities lay’ is exactly the kind of statement that means nothing in real terms and gets you nowhere.”
The city is in a “much more competitive climate now” and needs to do whatever it can to attract industry to the area, Lauer said.
Cipolla also reiterated development charges are not taxes — countering Orsi’s earlier argument to the contrary.
The C.D. Howe Institute supports the concept of development charges and does not recognize the charges as a tax, he said.
Development charges help pay for city services, including recreation, and there would be many people who “couldn’t afford to play hockey if (the city) was run like a business,” Cipolla said, referencing previous comments from Orsi that the city should in fact be run like a business.
“That would mean the city would have to make a profit on the recreational facilities,” he said. “Development charges allow things to be affordable for our students, our seniors and for our children.”
Orsi said Cipolla missed the mark with his connection of the development charges issue to Orsi’s earlier comments. Why Cipolla “attached the development community’s concern over development charges purely to recreation is confusing; they have nothing to do with operations,” he said.
“When raising my desire to run the city like a business, it was to ensure that city projects do not end up wasting tax dollars — for example, the $11-million dollar overrun with the library, and the multimillion-dollar MURF fiasco,” Orsi said in an email. “Unfortunately, I cannot explain my fellow mayoral candidate’s experienced decision-making on these points. However, I do know that with my business experience I would never allow this to happen in the business world and I know I can bring this thinking to council if elected mayor.”
Cipolla said the city needs to “piggyback” on the province’s efforts to market Ontario abroad. With a university and college in town, Orillia would do well to undertake similar strategies and promote the local “knowledge-based economy.”


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