News

Liberal-izing development

The provincial government has introduced legislation it says will cut red tape and protect developers from increases in development cost charges.

Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said this is the kind of action British Columbians were calling for 10 months ago when they elected the Liberals to another majority government.

"We have to energize building," Stilwell told The NEWS. "That's what we ran on — jobs and the economy."

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton introduced Bill 17, the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, to the legislature on Monday. It includes revisions to many pieces of current legislation, including the Adoption Act, the Employment Standards Act and the Mines Act.

Changes to the Local Government Act include, according to a government news release Monday, "proposed legislative amendments (that) will support economic development by cutting red tape that can delay building projects and add costs for developers and landowners." Other changes to the same act will "remove unnecessary ministerial approvals for land use planning and development decisions, allow modern land use policies and practices to replace outdated land use contracts and protect developers from increases in development cost charges."

Debates concerning development have been hot-button issues in Stilwell's constituency for the past year, especially in Qualicum Beach.

"There are many people there who are for development," said Stilwell. "(The people of Qualicum Beach) are looking at the closure of their elementary school. Therefore, they want families there and the way to get families there is jobs and the way to get jobs is a healthy economy. These are the steps (Bill 17) we are taking to make it easier for business and developers."

Parksville Mayor Chris Burger was asked to comment on the changes to the Local Government Act.

"I don't disagree with the provincial government in their premise," said Burger. "My concern is always for us to have some degree of autonomy here."

Burger said it's a constant balancing act at city hall between the services needed/requested and who is going to pay for them.

"Someone is ultimately going to have to pay for growth-related costs," said the mayor. "It's the developer or the taxpayer."

Burger said he has sensed a change in the way the people of his city view development.

"I do believe in this community there has been a real shift from the 'gated' mentality that may have existed at one time," he said. "But now that the economy has slowed, I'm seeing a real shift. We are working very hard to attract new investment. There's only one thing worse than a city that grows too fast — it's one that's in decline."

Burger said the development cost charges debate is not meaningful if no new business is coming to town.

"You can't collect DCCs if you don't have new development coming forward," he said.

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