• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Hidden costs of sprawl

In Sandy Agnew - Blog
Dec 6th, 2013
In a presentation to the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority board of directors in October, the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) asked the NVCA board to delay implementing revised permit fees which had been recommended by a sub-committee set up by the board.

BILD suggested waiting for the results of an efficiency audit which, among other things, would compare NVCA fees with those of other Conservation Authorities. That comparison had of course already been done by the sub-committee, which had worked for about a year, consulting with interested parties to come up with a new fee schedule.

BILD’s idea was for the NVCA to hire a consultant to repeat the sub-committee’s work. The strategy, in the opinion expressed to me by one board member, was to just keep doing study after study and keep any new fee schedule deferred and deferred until the developers get what they want – lower fees.

The board member asked: “Why don’t we listen to the people really affected by this? That is, the current landowner who will face higher taxes from their municipalities to pay for the NVCA levy unless or until the fee schedule is revised?”

To their credit, and my surprise, the NVCA board went ahead and passed the new fee schedule anyway.

In their October presentation BILD stated that “BILD and its members are committed to the principle that growth must pay for growth.” And then they have the nerve to ask for a reduction in permit fees when “everyone knows that growth doesn’t pay for growth,” as Simcoe County CAO Mark Aiken acknowledges in the ‘Watch It’ video posted on this website.

A growing number of knowledgeable people are coming forward to expose the truth that growth is not only destroying farmland and water supplies but bankrupting municipalities in the process. in an article published in the December/January North Simcoe Community News, I look at a report by David Thompson of the Sustainable Prosperity group titled SUBURBAN SPRAWL: EXPOSING HIDDEN COSTS, IDENTIFYING INNOVATIONS.

One section of the report is called “Challenging the myth that sprawl is cheaper.”

It states: “While a suburban mortgage may look cheaper, it’s perpetuating a problem for municipalities, businesses, and taxpayers.  Canadian municipalities, and their taxpayers, are also faced with billions of dollars in unfunded costs for new suburban developments.

“Sprawl is one of the major contributors to air pollution, which the World Health Organization had identified as one of the leading causes of cancer, and also contributes to climate change, loss of farmland and nature, vehicle injuries and death, and risk of chronic disease.”

“Although many municipalities have goals for reducing future sprawl and creating more liveable communities, many unintentionally encourage sprawl with charges and taxes that obscure the real costs. To restrain sprawl, local governments must turn prices around and so that they reward denser, healthier and more liveable development.  When we do so, we will reap significant economic and environmental benefits.”   The full report is available at http://thecostofsprawl.com/report/SP_SuburbanSprawl_Oct2013_opt.pdf

More recently, Toronto Star business reporter Susan Pigg cited a report by the non-profit Neptis Foundation that has found that “provincial growth policies aimed at curbing urban sprawl and boosting intensification have been so compromised, much of the 1,000 square kilometres of land that was at risk of low-density development almost a decade ago remains just as endangered today.”

In the Nov .5 2013 article, Pigg notes that the province’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe has become an inconsistent “patchwork,” largely because the government has granted so many exemptions and didn’t set penalties for municipalities failing to meet intensification targets.

Simcoe County knows that growth doesn’t pay. So why, in the face of the mounting evidence that the growth machine raises our taxes, paves over farmland, increases congestion and damages our environment, does Simcoe County press on at the OMB to accommodate as much growth as it can?

In his October 27, 2013 column in the Toronto Star, Christopher Hume wrote “The truth is that we long ago handed the future of Ontario’s towns and cities to private interests. Municipalities keep planning departments to fill in the forms, tick off the boxes and generally maintain the illusion they are in control, but as they all know, the development industry calls the shots. And it only cares about one thing — profit.”

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