WHY THE GIVEAWAYS OF OUR ASSETS?
The design of the George Hotel and Residences does not fit with the “village scale and character” that we have agreed, through community consultations, we want in the Landing—too high, too massive, too urban-looking. There are questions about protection of the aquifer and ensuring that highly-toxic contaminants in the soil and the ocean bed are not released into the marine environment.
But that’s not all. Discussions by Town staff with the developer have included agreeing to “give away” many of our public assets!
We have no official assessment of the value of the transfer of public space to private ownership—e.g., use of Winegarden Park as the “front lawn” of the condo tower (because the required 3 m. set-back was waived), use of the Town’s water lot and recreational water lease (intended for public enjoyment), use of what was to be mooring for public use at the marina to hotel guests, use of the extra space created by allowing a height of 3-4 more storeys, use of the space out over the water for a restaurant, and more. It is a long list—and the community is not getting any compensation!
There are some areas, though, where we can put a dollar figure on how much the current proposals will cost the community. For details of what is being offered to the developer, see the Council agenda for September 15, 2015. Here is what the current recommendations from staff to Council could cost the community:
- Parking spaces
In previous documents over the past two years, there was agreement that, in the design, 17 on-street parking spaces would disappear and there would be a shortfall of 26 parking spaces for the hotel/restaurant facility itself. Under our Zoning Bylaw, Section 615, the developer is to pay the town $30,000 for each parking space shortfall.
In the draft Development Agreement presented to Council on September 15, 2015, there is a mention of replacing 12 on-street parking spaces by providing either (a) free parking spaces on P1 of the parking garage under the hotel, or (b) “adding new stalls on Gibsons Way near School Road.” There are three problems with this approach:
- Addition of spaces at Gibsons Way and School Road is not equivalent to spaces at Winn and Gower Point Road.
- Designation of 12 parking spaces in the underground garage as replacements for 12 on the street means that the facility is an additional 12 spaces short under the Zoning Bylaw.
- There is no comment in the draft Development Agreement on the 5 other on-street parking spaces that would disappear nor on the 26 shortfall spaces.
If we add together the 17 spaces disappearing above ground and the shortfall of 26 spaces for the facility itself (assuming that the calculation cited is correct), there are 43 parking spaces outstanding to be accounted for. This would mean that the developer would owe the Town $1,290,000 for the 43 missing parking spaces. Instead, staff appears to be suggesting that a variance be granted so that this amount does not fall due.
- Servicing and Infrastructure Requirements
There continues to be confusion regarding what is required of any developer and what optional enhancements could be DCC creditable. In any development project, the developer is financially responsible for bringing all servicing infrastructure up to the standard needed to service the development (as defined in the Town Subdivision and Development Servicing and Stormwater Management Bylaw No. 1175, 4.1.7). This includes paying for upgrades to water and sewer services, including extension of works in order to merge with existing infrastructure and upgrades to the sewage lift station.
Developers are required to pay for these servicing infrastructure improvements so that the Town does not incur a capital cost in order to provide servicing to the new development, and these are not DCC credit eligible. Taxpayers are entitled to have the Town collect the full $1,280,000 in DCCs (the estimate from the Director of Planning).
- DCCs and DCC Rebates
The Staff Report talks about “required improvements” needed because of the development project being DCC creditable. While these capital improvements may indeed need to be made in time, the need for them to be done in the near term would be the direct result of the servicing demands of this development project.
It is standard practice to require a developer to build service infrastructure beyond the project property and then enter into a latecomers’ agreement (typically with a 10 or 15 year term) whereby the developer would be reimbursed (a DCC rebate) as additional properties are developed and service infrastructure charges assessed. Note that this requirement to “build beyond” would be considered required development and not a contributed or DCC creditable amenity.
- Prowse Road Lift Station
Estimated costs to upgrade the Prowse Road lift station are $690,000. The George would create increased demand and thus a need to expand the capacity of the lift station. Typically the developer would be expected to pay this cost up-front and then be reimbursed, as a rebate, from other new development through a latecomer’s agreement.
There is also the issue of extending the works to the Prowse Road intersection in order to connect properly with the existing service infrastructure. It is normally a requirement of the developer to link up with current service infrastructure. The Staff Report of Sept. 15, 2015 states: “The developer was not able to accommodate the Town’s request to include an extension of works (beyond what is required by the subdivision bylaw) to the Prowse Road intersection. This item has been removed from the development agreement items.” This statement is puzzling as the extension should not be an optional issue. Why is it not mandated? How much will this cost taxpayers?
- Affordable Housing
The Staff Report proposes that the developer – in lieu of providing four affordable housing units – contribute $156,648. The developer has already stated that it costs a minimum of $200,838 to build one 480 sq. ft. unit. The suggested contribution, therefore, would not fund the construction of even one affordable housing unit. If the intention of the Town’s Affordable Housing policy is to either acquire affordable housing stock directly or acquire sufficient funds to create such a stock, then the appropriate amount for the developer to contribute would be $803,352.
- Winn Road
Council is now proposing that the Town retain ownership of Winn Road but move its dedication to the George Hotel Plaza, costs to be borne by the developer. There would be a payment to the Town for the space under Winn Road to be used as a parking garage—amount unknown. I believe that an appropriate reassessment would yield a figure in excess of $550,000. Note that in the draft Development Agreement the wording is: “Highway closure and transfer to developer, subject to all applicable statutory procedures, in exchange for dedication of plaza area as a highway.” There is no mention of the Town retaining ownership or who will be responsible for maintenance.
No information has yet been provided to support the position that this transfer would provide equivalent value to the community or what “dedication of plaza area as a highway” means. Will the “plaza road” be flattened so that there are no stairs off of Gower Point Road? Will we be able to drive down the “plaza road” to the waterfront? Will the “plaza road” be finished with sidewalks and gutters along each side? Will the “plaza road” provide unimpeded access—that is, no seating or ornamentation in the middle of the highway?
- Use of the Town’s Recreational Water Lease
Bylaw No. 1121 (2011) specifies that the Town’s Recreational Water Lease is “for the use of the general public”; however, the proposed development blocks the use of a portion of that area (as it will be covered over by a restaurant) and implies that portions of the area will be restricted for use by hotel guests rather than the general public. If this is indeed a legal use of the Recreational Water Lease area, surely the Town should receive remuneration (lease payments) in compensation?
- Setbacks between Winegarden Park and the Residences
The developer has stated that they will need to use 3 metres of Winegarden Park for construction activity. This statement raises three questions: (a) Is there not already the required 3 m. setback along the side of the Residences, which could be used for construction purposes? (b) If the developer is to be granted permission to use a portion of a public park in support of private construction, should there not be some payment to the Town for the use of that land? (c) What will be the consequences for the community, performing artists, and event planners of having a primary entertainment/festival area taken over as a construction site?
In summary, staff recommendations appear to deprive the municipality and its taxpayers of the following in revenues, at a minimum:
|Parking spaces shortfall||$1,290,000.00|
|Amount in advance for Prowse Road upgrade||$690,000.00|
|Amount to connect to Prowse Road intersection||????|
|Affordable housing shortfall||$646,704.00|
|Winn Road sale shortfall (conservative)||$125,000.00|
|Use of Recreational Water Lease||???|
|Use of Winegarden Park||???|
|Transfer of other public assets (uncompensated)||???|
|Initial estimate of lost revenues||$4,031,704.00|