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The cost of growth

Budget talks highlight rising costs associated with city's booming development


The boom in development in the Oshawa’s north end is hitting the city financially, with the city now having to dish out more funds for servicing to these new areas.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It turns out there’s a lot of green in development, and that’s not in the trees or manicured front lawns.

In the first round of Oshawa’s talks for the 2016 budget, which currently could see the average taxpayer fork out an additional $65 over 2015, it became clear that the Oshawa’s development boom, while good for the city, is hitting them in the pocketbook.

“We brag about the growth, but it also means we’re supposed to be a high-service municipality,” said Councillor Nancy Diamond.

The speedy expansion, mostly in the city’s north end, has put the city in a difficult position, says Councillor Amy McQuaid-England.

“I do believe that residents need to understand that with the amount of growth that we’re receiving and the fact that development doesn’t pay for the growth that we’re in a really precarious situation as a municipality,” she said.

While development permits and fees can bring in additional revenue to city coffers, the dollars needed for additional servicing to these plots of lands can be costly, as well as the costs for snow and garbage removal in the city’s newly developed and now lived in subdivisions.

“Absolutely, it will create pressure on the operating budget,” says Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services.

The development costs are also related to the type of development, especially when it comes to residential growth, something the city saw record amounts of in 2015.

“Residential growth always has some difficulties attached to it,” says Mayor John Henry.

The main issue is the separate service lines needed for each home, as well as other services required in subdivisions, as opposed to apartments, which only require one line for the entire building.

In 2015, 733 new detached dwellings were constructed within the city, amounting to 1,364 new residential units.

“When you build subdivisions, there is some challenges…every so many feet, there is a streetlight, or stop sign or stop light, that we still have to plow the roads and pick up the garbage,” Henry says.

Glenn Simmonds, the city’s director of operations, provided numbers showing that over the past year, the amount of roads and sidewalks in the city has increased by three per cent, streetlights and schools crossings are up by five per cent, walkways are up by more than 40 per cent and waste collection stops have increased by three per cent.

“Growth is one factor I would say concerns me,” Simmonds said. “For us to keep maintaining those…that’s a big commitment.”

However, Mayor Henry says he is comfortable with the city’s position.

“The budgets are always a challenge, but we’re working hard,” he says.