As far back as 2009 the County began moving forward with developing an infrastructure plan and the contribution of costsspecific to those plans. To that end there were public input and information sessions held regarding the implementation of an Off-Site Levy and the County of Vermilion River Master Transportation Plan. Through each succeeding session and the resulting presentations various stakeholders and interested parties made their comments, suggestions and objections known, only to find that in many cases none of those were incorporated into the next presentation as a change or correction. It was commonly felt that there was never any meaningful consultation taking place between taxpayer and County.
At the last Off-Site Levy presentation given by Corvus Business Advisors at the Blackfoot Hall on August 23, 2011, the public was not even afforded the courtesy of receiving any information prior to the meeting or as a hand-out at the meeting, nor was it made available on the County Website until several days later. Popular opinion was that this was an offensive attempt to railroad an ill-conceived and inaccurate plan onto the taxpayer.
The CVRTA made the effort to do a comprehensive study of the proposed Off-Site Levy in its final presented form and identified many questionable items included in the infrastructure projects proposed. A 13-page document, dated October 10, 2011 was presented the following day by a CVRTA delegation appearing before Council at the Oct. 11 regular Council meeting. To view the full document presented to Council, go to the CVR Web-site and bring up the Council Meeting Agenda for Jan. 24, 2011, 11 a.m. Appointments, 2nd Attachment.
When we had not received any reply back from Council by almost 6 weeks, a registered letter dated November 22, 2011 was sent to Council requesting written communication as to what specific actions had been taken to address our concerns since our submission. By coincidence we received a letter dated the same day back from County CAO Rhonda King (postmarked Nov. 30) acknowledging our concerns and inviting us to address Council at their Dec. 13th meeting. Due to prior commitments we accepted the further invitation to meet with Council and Administration on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 to begin the process of addressing the issues within the CVRTA submission.
When the CVRTA delegation appeared before Council on Jan. 24, Reeve Richard Van Ee’s opening remarks were that they had read our submission and that we were mean-spirited and unfair. In regards to some of the scope and costs of identified transportation projects it was offered to us that there likely were some “type-o’s” that were being looked at. To her credit, Councilor Glenda Elkow (Division 5) offered to meet with us at a later date for general discussion on topics of concern to us, which she did on February 13, 2012 with the inclusion of Councilor Ed Parke (Division 6). However, if they came away from that meeting with anything of value, it certainly didn’t seem to resonate with Council as there has been no further communication from them. To make a long story short, at this point in time there has not been an Off-Site Levy Bylaw implemented; however, the total Off-Site Levy rates for transportation charges and stormwater charges for development in the Northwest Basin area remain listed as $16,734 per net hectare (including $628/hectare stormwater charges), while those costs for development in the Blackfoot Basin remain listed at $17,594 per net hectare (including $1,488 stormwater charges). Outside of the Drainage Basin, transportation charges are listed at $16,106 (no stormwater charges applicable).
It has come to our attention that certain developments are now being charged for infrastructure “contributions”, and that these contributions are being attached to Development Permits. (not Development Agreements, which by definition is a lawful agreement entered into by both parties, with mutually-agreed upon terms and conditions, signed and dated). It is also noted that these “contributions” are based on the above-noted charges for transportation and stormwater. In effect, County is proceeding to implement the Off-Site Levy even though it does not exist.
Taxpayers! Phone, e-mail or write your Councilors and Administration demanding to know by what lawful authority they have proceeded with these charges in the absence of a Bylaw to that effect, and ask also for the data and determination of costs, through public input, used in these calculations.