RDN considering development cost charges for park funds

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, June 5 2019

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is contemplating the implementation of Development Cost Charge (DCC) systems for community and regional parkland acquisitions.

The RDN Board ratified a motion to proceed with a study into DCC systems for community and regional parks, limited to Electoral Areas A, B, E, G and H - better known as Cedar, Gabriola (including Mudge and DeCourcy), Nanoose Bay, Englishman River/French Creek, and Deep Bay/Bowser.

The DCC would be an order as permitted under the Local Government Act (LGA).

Vanessa Craig, RDN Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, Decourcy) said, “currently maintenance and operations of our regional and community parks is taking up quite a bit of the parks budget. The Board is interested in ensuring that we can maintain/improve our current parks as well as acquire new ones. A staff report indicated that one option could be implementing DCCs where the funds could be used for very specific purposes such as expanding infrastructure and acquiring new parks. The Board is interested in exploring options to acquire funds and asked for a staff report with additional information and options.

Tom Osborne, General Manager of Recreation and Parks for the RDN, said the LGA authorizes the RDN to apply a development cost charge at the time of subdivision or building permit.

It is a system more commonly done for utilities infrastructure, like water or sewage.

But it can also be applied, as stated in the LGA, “to pay the capital costs of:

(i) acquiring parkland or reclaiming land as parkland, or

(ii) providing fencing, landscaping, drainage and irrigation, trails, restrooms, changing rooms and playground and playing field equipment on parkland.”

Because community parks and regional parks are funded through different streams within the RDN, the Board made separate motions to study DCCs for each kind of park.

The discussion around DCCs for parks is not new to the current Board, it came up during the previous Board’s term of office.

Osborne said that, so far, the majority of the current Board members have supported studying DCCs.

Having Board permission to study the issue will allow staff to look at how DCCs would be implemented - and allows a consulting firm to be hired to conduct the study, as well as engage stakeholders.

Osborne said the RDN plans to be working and consulting with the development community.

In terms of the overall public, “We will be looking to the consulting firm to come up with a consultation process for that.”

Osborne’s report to the RDN Board states that $50,000 has been allocated under the Administration Services budget in 2019 for the advancement of DCCs within the RDN. These funds will be used to retain a professional firm to develop the DCC program including stakeholder consultation. Extensive staff time, both in the Parks and Finance areas, will be required to support the project.

Osborne said that, so far, there is no information on what the percentage of the charge would be on a subdivision application or building permit.

He said there are a number of factors involved in setting that number, including considering what the future assets list might be - the list of parks and improvements desired to be paid for through the DCC.

“Then break that into factors - how much is it benefitting existing population, and future population - that’s what we’re going to try and bring back for the Board’s consideration.”

Each Electoral Area will get to decide whether they want a DCC put in place for Community Parks.

Electoral Areas C (Extension, East Wellington, Pleasant Valley) and F (Coombs/Hilliers/Errington) have already opted out of the Community Parks DCC study.

If a Regional Parks DCC is put in place, it would be applied to all RDN partners.

Osborne said the recent discussions on Gabriola around formulating a long-term Parks and Protected Areas vision is timely.

It also lined up with another item on the RDN Board’s agenda this past week - the approval of terms and references for an RDN Parks and Trails Strategic Plan - where the RDN will be considering the shape of both the Regional and Community Parks service over the next ten years.

Osborne said the intent is to look at both the Regional and Community Parks together. While they have different funding streams, they share the same staff (i.e., the people working as Park Planner and Operations Staff for Gabriola’s Community Parks are also the Park Planner and Operations Staff for the regional parks on Gabriola).

Both the DCC study, and the Strategic Plan process, are working on a 1.5 year timeline, to be completed by the end of 2020.

Osborne said that only RDN Board members and RDN staff will be on the Strategic Plan Advisory Sub-Committee. Appointed from the Board were Directors Clarke Gourlay (Englishman River/French Creek); Erin Hemmens (City of Nanaimo); Ben Geselbracht (City of Nanaimo); and Keith Wilson (Cassidy/Cedar). As with the DCC study, there will be public consultation during the process, though dates and the format of that consultation has yet to be determined.

 

Cox Community Park (in light green) was purchased by the Regional District of Nanaimo in 2002 from the Coastal Community Credit Union, with payment on the purchase coming from the taxpayers of Electoral Area B. At the same time, the RDN purchased the adjacent campground lands to create Descanso Bay Regional Park, paid for by all residents of the RDN. Having development cost charges in place would enable the RDN to acquire or improve parks without using tax dollars. RDN Parks Services Map.