The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) 2020 approved capital budget totals $36.9 million in projects with over 50 per cent of funding coming from the collection of development charges.
As such, TBM staff are watching COVID-19’s impact on area development closely.
“As it sits right now, the town is continuing to collect development charges close to what we are used to [before COVID-19]. We have not seen that part of the town’s business fall off yet,” said Sam Dinsmore, deputy treasurer with the TBM at a virtual council meeting held earlier this week.
Dinsmore reports that from a financial standpoint, TBM has yet to see any change to the projected collection amounts of development charges, and at this point, staff are not sure they will.
“Staff continue to review agreements and development charges. The only thing that has been on pause is the actual issuance of new building permits for new residences, in line with the provincial orders,” said Nathan Westendorp, director of planning and development services for TBM.
Now with provincial orders lifted, Westendorp says the department is currently working through a backlog of permit requests.
“From a planning and development services point of view, there hasn’t been that much of a marked decrease in activity,” Westendorp said.
TBM Mayor Alar Soever agrees, saying that so far, he believes COVID-19 may actually increase real estate investments in and around TBM.
“I hear from developers and real estate that in the last month there has been a lot of interest in properties up here,” Soever says. “People are very wary of the stock market because of the volatility we have had, and those with money are looking for places to put their money that is less risky. Real estate seems to be appealing in that way.”
Dinsmore confirms that even with COVID-19 at its peak, development charges were still actively being collected.
“In the April flash report, the town signed an agreement and collected 35-upfront units from a developer in the amount of $1.3 million,” Dinsmore added.
In a staff report to council, the development and planning department says it has been experiencing significant growth in residential subdivisions, redevelopment of existing buildings and commercial activity, and that the growth is projected to continue beyond 2023 based on what is currently existing, under construction or proposed.
“During the first quarter of 2020, revenue [in the building department] has increased 30 per cent over the same period in 2018 and 2019, while the number permits issued for residential dwellings has increased by 60 per cent,” Westendorp states in the staff report.
According to the development and planning department, the number of monthly inspections conducted in the first quarter outnumber each monthly inspection for the same period in 2018 and 2019.
Since late-March, the department has also been working to advance the designs of several projects, including Clarksbury (Bayside), Towns of Thornbury, Lora Bay Phase 4, and Skyline Site F.
“We are experiencing a heavy volume in the building department. There is a budget item later on in the agenda that is looking to provide a little bit more long-term stability in the department,” Westendorp added. “Looking forward, if things continue, we will be at peak capacity.”
At an upcoming special committee of the whole meeting of council on May 25, the planning and development department will be looking to council to consider the extension of two existing development engineering contract positions to the end of June 2021; the establishment of a full-time, permanent building plans examiner/inspector position to replace the existing 24-month contract position; and approve the purchase of an additional SUV for departmental use.