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Signal Hill developers get cost clarity

Package of amenities more palatable than paying community amenity charge



Signal Hill Homes now has a better idea of what it will cost to put a major new neighbourhood next to the downtown core.

Proponents Bruce van Mook and Garth Phare got a letter from the Village of Pemberton last week asking the developers to pay for amenities such as dyke improvements, a community garden, an affordable housing site and a school bus drop off area instead of the community amenity charge, which the developers say they can't afford.

In total the amenities could cost them up to $2.15 million, coming in place of a charge that could have cost then about $2 million, in addition to other costs.

Van Mook said in an interview that he and Phare are being asked to foot $1.5 million for dyke improvements; $300,000 for a bridge over Pemberton Creek; gift a tract of land worth $200,000 to the village that could be used for affordable housing; and $150,000 for turning a 1.4-acre piece of land into a community garden.

Van Mook stressed that the figures he offered are estimated maximums and he's not certain what the exact costs will be for each contribution. He nevertheless said he's satisfied with what the Village of Pemberton is offering.

"The letter from the village seems to satisfy our concerns about the viability," he said, adding the community amenity charge pushed Signal Hill Homes "outside that viability envelope."

"This has become something that's viable so we're going to respond appropriately in the next couple of days and let them know our thoughts."

Caroline Lamont, manager of development services with the Village of Pemberton, said the village is not looking at the contributions as a "cost situation," but as a total package that's consistent with the community amenity policy, which is currently undergoing a review and may be rescinded as the village revises its official community plan.

"It's a good development. What we wanted to do is ensure we're in accordance with the Local Government Act and our own policy, specifically the community amenity contribution," she said.

Those aren't the only contributions that the Signal Hill developers will make to the community. They also expect to spend up to $200,000 upgrading a portion of sewer line across the street from the Petro Canada gas station at the edge of town.

"We would be replacing a pipe that is currently beyond its capacity," van Mook said. "That's not good for the community."

For that the developers hope to collect a credit on development cost charges (DCCs), which are meant to assist the municipality in paying capital costs for sewage, water, drainage and highway facilities, as well as providing park land. They don't expect to get full credit towards the charges, which could total about $2 million.

The arrangement is a preferred option to the development's original cost, which could have been almost $10 million if van Mook and Phare were to cover the full cost of the dyke improvements, upgrades to surrounding sewers, as well as community amenity and development cost charges.

Neither van Mook nor the village would provide Pique with the letter they received last week but they promised their response would appear soon, likely in the agenda for Pemberton's council meeting on Nov. 17.