Business reps feel increase in building permit fees is unfair

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

MINDEMOYA—Raising building permit fees would send a wrong message and could dissuade future developers from taking on construction projects in the municipality, a group of about 10 business people and residents told members of Central Manitoulin council at a meeting last week.

Council was in consideration of raising building permit fees from $8 to $10, both based on $1,000 construction value.

“A 25 percent increase over the current rates is a fairly hefty increase,” Mr. Adam Smith told council at the public meeting. “It is important you consider the message you’re sending for anyone interested in future commercial efforts. A two dollar increase is large, and Central Manitoulin is growing and will continue to grow with long term paybacks to the municipality. You should look at this, rather than at a tax grab now. The municipality shouldn’t be increasing the fees, they should be left the way they are now.”

Reeve Gerry Strong pointed out the purpose of the meeting was to get public input on the proposed bylaw change. He explained the proposal is for the building permit fees to be increased from $8 for $1,000 to $10 per $10,000 on construction value, while nothing else would change in the bylaw.

“From the spreadsheet you have provided the amount of dollars, $54,565 generated now would increase to $64,000 in revenues, but in reality to run the building department costs $73,000 and even going to a $10 fee there would have been a negative of $11,000 this year,” said Mr. Smith. “If the fees don’t go up in essence it would have meant a $20,000 loss.” He also pointed out the municipal Chief Building Officer (CBO) is the bylaw officer as well. “I don’t think from a taxpayer’s standpoint it should be expected that the intent of raising permit fees is being done to cover the costs of the CBO.”

“The cost of construction is enough now and you would be sending the wrong message to developers with an increase,” said Mr. Smith, adding that he didn’t agree with council’s decision to pass a zero percent budget increase. “A 25 percent increase in building permit fees is not the right way to go.”

Mr. Strong said even with the proposed increases for building permit fees, “when you compare our fees to other municipalities we are on par with NEMI and less than the North Shore.”

“Central Manitoulin is no doubt the fastest growing community on the Island for development,” said Wayne Legge. “There is a lot of development going on,” he added, pointing out he had paid a $12,000 in building permits for construction of the new Home Hardware store in Mindemoya. “This is a lot of money. A gentleman I know put up a $1.8 million building in Owen Sound for a $100 permit fee.”

Mr. Smith said if it costs more for a developer to construct a building in Central Manitoulin than a neighbouring municipality, it would be the latter that they would probably look at for development.

Mr. Strong pointed out the building department generates income, and building permit fees cannot be more than what running the department is.

John Finlay said, “I really don’t understand why there isn’t a co-op in place on the Island. There are a number of full-time building inspectors, and I just wonder why this can’t be done by one person in a cooperative?”

Mr. Strong said there was a movement about six or seven years ago to have an Island-wide building department, but it didn’t get enough support.

Another issue pertaining to building permit fees was raised at the meeting by farmers Joe Ann and John Lewis. “The reason we are here tonight is to address an oversight in the fee structure in the municipality. I noticed there is not an agriculture fee structure in place. I don’t think this was done on purpose, but was just missed when the municipality amalgamated,” said Ms. Lewis. “It puts a grave economic burden on rural agriculture people if we have to pay standard residential rates.” She noted that other Island municipalities have agricultural permit fee structures in place.

“The purpose of tonight’s meeting was to get input from the public and we have heard the concerns raised here tonight, so this will go back to our committee, and if we do further alterations of our proposed bylaw another public meeting will need to take place,” said Mr. Strong.