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Some 'bad apples' led to the city's crackdown

A few “bad apples” led the city to crack down on building developers and enforce tougher rules, admitted one councillor last week amid accusations the city is not treating all developers equally.

The revelation came following a complaint brought forward by Merecroft apartment developer Brett Giese after he was told he was required to pay the cost of undergrounding power lines along his proposed development – something other recent city projects were exempt from.

“I have the distinct feeling that if I had not made a direct inquiry about undergrounding the service, my development would have passed without installation of service or payment of a bond as have (other) projects,” Giese wrote in a letter to council. “There hasn’t been a level playing field since the bylaw was passed two years ago, and I do not understand how can staff decide that the next development permit that walks through the door will be the one to set an example for all of the others.”

Giese is upset he has to pay a 125 per cent bond to the city to ensure the work will be done, as well as 100 per cent out of pocket costs for the actual landscaping.

Ross Blackwell, the city’s land use manager, explained in a report to council that the bond is necessary to keep developers honest.

“The city is entitled to require a landscape bond by virtue of...the Local Government Act and utilizes this mechanism to ensure compliance with the DP (development permit) plans approved by council and the replacement of any planting failures,” he said. “Without this, there would be no tool (to ensure compliance).”

Coun. Andy Adams admitted at the Aug. 14 council meeting that the bond became necessary because developers that were required to install property frontage improvements such as sidewalks, curbs, gutters, street trees, and undergrounding of overhead wires, weren’t following through with the improvements they promised in their draft plans.

“I’ll be candid, there were a few bad apples who spoiled it for the rest and...in order to get that certainty, it’s been applied for everybody,” Adams said. “In no way is this a reflection on any current or future developers as far as our confidence or trust in what they will do. I will say, past councils have been burned in the past.”

Adams said it was council that asked staff to request a landscape bond from the applicant during the building permit stage to avoid any major deviations.

However, after hearing Giese describe the bond’s financial burden, Adams wondered if a compromise could be made.

“One thing I would ask staff to consider, in hearing from the delegation, (is) how is there a way we can assist the developer in mitigating that requirement, that lessens the financial burden on the developer, while guaranteeing the work will be done that’s proposed,” Adams said.

To take it one step further, council passed a motion directing staff to come back with a report reviewing the bylaw to determine if exceptions should be made to frontage improvements.

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