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Parksville councillor says DCC increase could be disastrous

Chamber CEO says current rates have discouraged facade improvements downtown

The Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce would like the city to encourage rather than discourage development.

"The creation of a competitive advantage with neighbouring communities is critical," chamber executive director Kim Burden told council Monday giving the results of their review of proposed changes to the city's development cost charges (DCCs).

The chamber looked at the city's preliminary proposal introduced in July, which suggested DCCs could go up by more than 50 per cent in some cases.

He said they reviewed, "not so much the technical aspects, but the impact this could have on the community, the industry and our development goal to raise the average wage and lower the average age of our community."

"We know the city requires revenue, we represent the business community, we understand you have a revenue side and an expense side and they have to meet somewhere but I think there's other options we can explore so we can be competitive — and I want to keep coming back to that," Burden said.

He focused on the idea that higher DCCs would discourage development and therefore reduce city revenue, when the city is hoping to increase revenue.

He pointed to a 58 per cent drop in the value of development in the city over the last five years since DCCs were last increased, compared to the previous five years.

He said that while this also corresponded with the global financial slow down, development only decreased 17 per cent province wide.

He also provided a chart showing Parksville with higher DCCs than Qualicum Beach, Nanaimo, Comox and Courtenay, though Qualicum Beach's figures were incomplete and Comox was higher in several categories.

Burden said the DCCs have even been discouraging facade improvements in the downtown revitalization area because property owners are worried they would kick in and end up adding cost.

He suggested exploring other revenue generating or cost saving measures like exploring alternative energy and efficient street lights.

Mayor Chris Burger said the city is already exploring some of those options and is actively looking for other ideas along those lines.

Burger also said they would look into the DCC fears about revitalization since beautification projects are not supposed to be charged DCCs.

Coun. Al Greir agreed enthusiastically with Burden, agreeing "over the years I've always thought the DCCs were too high" and that we now live in a different, slower growth world where "putting the DCCs up any more than they are now would be disastrous."

Coun. Marc Lefebvre said that DCCs currently don't cover the cost of single family developments, which puts unfair costs on existing residents who have to pay the additional infrastructure costs.

The chamber report provided six detailed recommendations including leaving DCCs rates the same or decreasing them, exempting development in the downtown and industrial park, increasing the trigger point from $50,000 to $100,000, and structuring DCCs to encourage density.