Council warned building fee increases will hurt local development

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When Windsor City Council sits down to deliberate its budget for 2020, the Heavy Construction Association of Windsor and the Windsor Construction Association hope it rethinks to rethink increases in development fees in this year’s budget.

Over the past several years, fees have gone up between two and five per cent annually. A letter to councillors read, “historic annual increased permit costs have been readily accepted, never challenged, and have been simply passed on to the property owner/developers by the contractors.”

However, this year the city’s building department is proposing some fee increases of 133 per cent. Industrial and residential developments will be hit hardest by the additions, intended to help return the department to a balanced budget.

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / monkeybusiness

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / monkeybusiness

How Tony Rosati, the president of the Windsor Construction Association, explained it was to compare the building permit fees for the Grand Central Business Park constructed a few years ago to service the Windsor Assembly Plant. At the time, the charges totalled about $1 million. With the proposed increase, it would be $1.8 million.

“They’re trying to bring the industrial rate up to the institutional rate,” he said.

Industrial developments like a warehouse cost far less to service than developments like a school or a hospital.

A project meant to speed up the time it takes to get a building permit was supposed to go online this month, but the letter continued, “to date, we understand it is still in the testing stage and in the hands of one user.” It said developers remain frustrated with how long it takes to issue a permit.

Heavy Construction Association of Windsor President David Colle told he feared the increases would discourage job creation.

“We are obviously always trying to attract new jobs to the area and encourage new developments. By raising the fee substantially, the industry is concerned it’s going to negatively impact the amount of development or the willingness for companies to invest in our community,” said Colle.

A table included with the letter stacks Windsor’s industrial charges against other municipalities, including Lakeshore, Tecumseh, LaSalle, London, and Hamilton. With the proposed increase, Colle said Windsor would no longer be competitive.

“The fees are becoming excessive, let’s put it that way,” he said. “A permit that would have cost $88,000 in 2019 will now cost $174,000.”

Colle insisted the associations have always had a good working relationship with the building department and meet with it regularly, but the increases caught them off guard. He said the construction industry was not consulted and was very disappointed to learn early this month how hefty this year’s rates would be.

The letter proposes recommendations including holding off on fee increases for a year so projects in the design phase can get underway, and phasing in the fee hike over the following three years. It also suggested reconsidering the fee for industrial and residential developments.

Windsor city council starts budget deliberations Monday.