Development Charge concerns at root of donation delay in Brock Township

Brock Mayor John Grant says the issue at the heart of the aerial unit donation is whether it would interfere with a future council using development charges to purchase a new truck.

At Monday’s (March 19) council meeting, Grant told his peers the deputation from the Beaverton Firefighters’ Association had been withdrawn from the day’s agenda, following a meeting held last week.

Read more: Deputation on donation of aerial unit by Beaverton firefighters delayed

“We exchanged some information that neither party was aware of at the time…They thought it was best to withdraw from the meeting this week,” said Grant, noting he understands the Association has requested to reschedule their deputation for an upcoming meeting.

On Sunday (March 19), Association spokesperson Mike Jubb reiterated that the association is committed to following through with the donation.

“There are many options available to obtain an aerial device and we will be discussing these options. Our position remains the same – we believe for the safety of our citizens and members, a device is needed immediately.”

Following Monday’s council meeting, Grant explained the information exchanged was related to development charges.

“When I found out about it and members of council and other members of staff, we realized that such a donation would cause issues with using development charges in three years to buy a brand new (aerial unit),” said Grant.

“According to the laws of the Province of Ontario (the Development Charges Act) and the interpretations of regulations subsequent to, you cannot use development charges to replace existing (assets).”

With respect to improvements, Grant said development charges could be used “a little bit” but noted he did not know what percentage that would represent.

Grant went on to say that Hemson Consulting Firm, responsible for preparing the Township’s Development Charges By-Law had confirmed this belief. He said he had the confirmation in writing and would be able to provide it.

Township CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby later said that while he had spoken to the Township’s consultant, this opinion “was my review of the Act as well”. He said there is no written confirmation from Hemson regarding the matter but did provide a copy of a March 16 memo he had sent to Mayor Grant.

According to Gettinby, if the Township does not have an aerial unit, they would be able to completely fund the purchase of a new one through development charges. While other services see a 10 per cent offset in the amount eligible to be paid for by these charges, Gettinby says that does not apply to fire service.

The Development Charges Act of Ontario states, with respect to the determination of development charges, “the increase in the need for service attributable to the anticipated development must be estimated for each service to which the development charge by-law would relate.”

Furthermore, the Act states “the increase in the need for service must be reduced by the extent to which an increase in service to meet the increased need would benefit existing development. The extent to which an increase in service would benefit existing development may be governed by the regulations.”

In his memo to Grant, Gettinby wrote that staff have estimated the cost of a new aerial to be approximately $950,000 and that the Marydel subdivision is expected to be built-out by the time the new aerial is acquired.

“Based on the percentage allocation to the fire department, this would provide approximately $500,000 toward the purchase. On the basis of the consultant’s comments, with a donated aerial in our fleet, this amount would be reduced by at least $250,000 and potentially much lower,” wrote Gettinby.

In his memo to Mayor Grant, Gettinby indicates the consultant believes it would be difficult to fund a new aerial unit if it is being considered a one-to-one replacement.

“If it is a direct one-to-one replacement, it would be difficult, in his opinion, to defend funding of a new aerial from the Development Charges. He has further indicated that if the new aerial was included for full, or partial Development Charge funding under the 2019 background study, the Township would be at risk of the by-law being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board,” wrote Gettinby.

The 2019 background study has yet to be completed. The 2014 Development Charge policy report did not identify an aerial unit.

Gettinby’s memo continues to address the question of how the use of development charges would be impacted if the donated aerial was replaced with one with a longer ladder or increased water capacity.

“Under this scenario, the new aerial would have greater servicing capacity or abilities than the donated aerial. In this case it would no longer be considered a one-to-one replacement and would justify the consideration of a share of the cost of acquiring the new aerial as providing increased servicing capacity which would qualify for the use of development charges. However, he (the consultant) stated that it is very unlikely that the development charge eligible share would be higher than 50 per cent and potentially much lower and that the share must be reasonable and defensible as it could be challenged.”

Jubb says he has consulted with the manager of finance and infrastructure for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and housing.

In our situation, going from a 50-foot to an 80-foot aerial device, (as planned in 2021) he has no concern of a problem with this,” says Jubb.

When asked how the the use of development charges would be impacted if the Township did not consider the purchase of a new aerial a replacement, rather an additional unit, Gettinby could not provide an answer.

Although the development charge questions have been named the primary concern with respect to potentially accepting the donation from the Firefighters’ Association, Grant also said there was a “communication breakdown” in the process.

“Normally what happens is a volunteer organization comes and has meeting with staff and appropriate members of council if they have a project in mind. That didn’t happen this time,” he said.

When asked if Fire Chief Rick Harrison was considered Township staff, Grant responded, “No, well, he didn’t come and tell us.”

Mayor Grant says another meeting is expected to take place between staff, appropriate members of council and the Association prior to the deputation. He asks members of the public not to “jump the gun” about what decision council may or may not make.

“Where we stand on it is they’ve requested another meeting so we’re going to do that and we’re going to see where we go.”

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