WINNIPEG – The debate over growth fees in Winnipeg isn’t going to end anytime soon.
After dozens of heavy hitters from the city’s development community blasted him today, Mayor Brian Bowman agreed to hold off on voting on the fees, instead laying the matter over indefinitely.
He says the idea is to allow for more discussion from both sides. There is no firm timeline for when meetings might happen, how many there will be, how they will work or when the matter might come back to council for a vote.
“Councillor Orlikow (Chair of Property Committee) will continue to have dialogue with stakeholders, council colleagues and we’ll see how the discussions go,” said the Mayor.
A number of members of the development community told Bowman today they weren’t necessarily opposed to growth fees but they don’t like the way they’re being pushed through so quickly.
Michael Falk from Terracon Developments says there needs to be way more discussion and debate before anything happens.
“Mr. Bowman, if the city’s desire is to change the development process, then let’s do it right,” he said today.
Falk and several other developers called the growth fee proposal a “tax”.
One, Eric Vogan of Qualico, repeatedly used terms like “scheme” and “slush fund”, appearing to suggest the city was planning to use the funds raised from the new fees to balance the budget. When Vogan used the phrase. “shame on you” in reference to the mayor and some councillors, City Finance Chair Marty Morantz, a fierce ally of Bowman, took exception.
“Shame on you? What is that?” he asked. “It’s unfortunate you chose those words, Eric, I thought you were better than that.”
Morantz called on Vogan to apologize to the Mayor, which he did.
Vogan said after the meeting he would be willing to meet with anyone from city hall “tomorrow”. One of his allies, Mike Moore from the Manitoba Homebuilders Association said he too would clear his schedule to meet with city officials or politicians.
A report released last week at city hall suggested the fees be in place by January 1st. Bowman would not commit to taking that date off the table.
The new fees would be added to the cost of new developments like homes, retail or new buildings. They would add to the cost of building a new home.
Bowman has said growth needs to pay for growth and the money would help pay for services in new developments so all taxpayers don’t need to pay through higher property taxes.
He does say the city will be looking at possible exemptions for infill development in areas like downtown, which the city has been trying to promote.
Many other big cities in Canada have some form of growth or development fees.