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    Categories: Local News

Cost of building in county to increase

New Sturgeon Valley homes will be more expensive now that county council has raised its off-site levies, but they’ll also have working fire hydrants.

Sturgeon County council voted 5-1 Tuesday in favour of raising its off-site levies for the Sturgeon Valley region. Coun. Don McGeachy opposed the move. Mayor Don Rigney was absent.

The levies, last adjusted in 2007, jump to $55,704 per lot from $22,425.

About 575 new lots are proposed for development in the Sturgeon Valley in the next five years, council learned last November – growth that will strain the region’s roads and water networks. The region’s Allin Ridge and Summerbrook reservoirs are already at capacity, consultants say, and do not have enough water to support working fire hydrants.

Consultants proposed some $51.8 million in upgrades to the region’s roads and pipes to support this growth and provide fire protection flows for the region.

Administration recommended raising off-site levies for the region so developers would pay for 62 per cent of these upgrades, or $31.9 million.

The county would have had to pay about $19 million more for these upgrades had it kept the old rate, said corporate services manager Rick Wojtkiw in an interview, and would have maxed out its debt limit for the year.

With the new levies the county has about $4 million of borrowing room left.

Not included in this bill is the full cost of realigning 127 Street, Wojtkiw added. The county will need an additional $29 million to finish this road, which it plans to get from future development.

Joe Marchese of United Communities criticized the levies as “flawed and unfair.”

“It’s difficult enough to generate sales at current prices,” he argued, and these new levies will simply slow the growth the county needs to pay for these upgrades.

Two companies are already ready to build homes under these new rates and need these upgrades, said Ian McKay, the county’s manager of infrastructure services.

“If it was uneconomical, they would not be here,” he said.

The county’s levies are low, said Ed Basaraba of Pinnacorp Investments Inc., and do need to be raised, but some parts of the valley will benefit more from these upgrades than others. He called for different levies to be applied to different parts of the valley as a result.

“Some should pay more and some should pay less,” he said.

Sturgeon Heights supports these levies in principle, said spokesperson Cliff Kelsey, but is concerned about the magnitude of the upgrades proposed.

“Those costs will be passed onto the mortgages of new homebuyers,” he said, adding that this will slow growth.

Residents have said loud and clear that they don’t want to pay for development, said Coun. Tom Flynn.

“If we don’t get the levies to follow through … the residents are going to have to pay for it somehow,” he said.

Acting chair David Kluthe supported the rate raise, and noted that the county would revisit levy rates in the future.

“The levies are too low.”

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.