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Council debates axing north end incentives for developers

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

As Oshawa’s north end continues its rapid growth, council has questioned the need for handing out incentives to developers chomping at the bit for the prime real estate.

The question was raised at the most recent meeting of council, where grants for a residential complex at 1800 Simcoe St. N. were put into question. Set to be approved under the city’s University and College Area Renaissance Community Improvement Plan, an increased assessment grant would see the Podium development getting a chunk of taxes returned to them on a declining basis over a 10-year period upon the project’s completion.

The city’s financial department estimates this could mean over $1.5 million in tax dollars would be returned to the developer. However, over time, the development would eventually create more money for the city.

Currently, the vacant land generates approximately $23,000 in taxes per year. Upon completion, it’s estimated to bring in around $375,000 plus an additional $19,000 for the planned ground-floor commercial developments.

With that said, Councillor Amy McQuaid-England questioned why the city still needed to offer such grants when it appears the developers are lining up for their chance to build in this area of the city.

“We really need to start considering the types of grants that we’re giving to developers and whether or not they actually need them,” she said, noting that the “carrot you dangle in front of developers” was perhaps meant for a different time.

It was fact recognized by Mayor John Henry following the meeting.

“There was a time when development in this city was a challenge,” he said.

And while that may no longer be the case, the mayor notes these grants gain back all their value over time, and that right now, the grants are still a useful tool.

“You look at every tool in the toolbox,” he said. “Will there be a time, some time down the road where we don’t have to do this in Oshawa? I hope so. I think the world is waking up to us as a community.”

For Councillor John Aker, a strong proponent for development in the city and chair of the development services committee, it wasn’t the right time to be having such a discussion.

With the application already submitted, Aker says that the “investment community looks at what a city does and how they keep their commitments.”

“At any time, if council wants to look at a CIP…if anybody wants to wind down a CIP, that’s a discussion for another day.”

The grants were approved by council.

Currently, the city has four CIPs. Along with the university area in the north end, there is one for the downtown, one for brownfields and one for Simcoe Street South. The city is also in the process of developing similar programs for the land north of Harbour Road and for the Cedar/Wentworth corridor.