Soaring land values have prompted both of Halton's school boards to raise their educational development charges (EDC) paid by developers. Both boards passed amendments to their EDC bylaws at public meetings last week. EDCs are what land developers pay to boards who, in turn, use the money to purchase land for future school construction. They are on top of the local and regional municipal land charges developers are required to pay. The Halton public board is now charging developers $1,260 per residential dwelling-- a 34 per cent increase over the $941 in the 2005 bylaw. The non-residential EDC, which covers new commercial-industrial-institutional facilities, is now 35 cents per square foot, a 42 per cent boost over the previous rate of 26 cents. The public board based its latest EDC update on the cost estimates of purchasing land for building projects found in its 2003 Capital Strategic Plan. Just two years ago the board estimated it needed $58 million over 15 years to buy land for 17 elementary and five secondary school sites. That figure has jumped to $92.5M. The Halton Catholic board also amended its EDC bylaw last week. Its new figures are an EDC of $808 per new residential unit, well up from the $592 of two years ago, while the new rate for non-residential development is 23 cents per square foot, up from 17 just two years ago. The public board has been doing an annual review of its EDC bylaw since 2004 and has bumped up the rates for both residential and non-residential units in consecutive years.
The public board's facilities superintendent said prime land scarcity in this area, due in part to greenbelt legislation coupled with high demand for housing here and a good economy, is driving rising land costs. Cullen said developers have known about the board's EDC intentions for about a month. He said they have an appeal period of about 40 days if they disagree with the figures, although he doesn't think that will happen. He guessed that most or all of the EDC increase will be passed on to homebuyers by developers. "I suppose in a lot of cases that's what they do. That would be part of their (price) negotiating process." And that's what has upset Acton Councillor Mike O'Leary. A member of the Town of Halton Hills Economic Development Committee, he fears the increase will have a detrimental effect, especially on non-residential development, in Halton Hills. O'Leary had intended to introduce a motion at Monday's council meeting asking school boards to phase in the increases over three years to allow the Town to remain competitive with other municipalities' development charges. But O'Leary withdrew the motion after learning both boards had already passed their bylaws. "It (the motion) would have been like closing the barn door after the horses had got out," he said, adding, "None of the other municipalities (Oakville, Burlington and Milton) seemed concerned and for the life of me I can't understand why."