School district asks Nanaimo to collect fee from residential developers

School site acquisition charges would fund purchase of more land to accommodate more students

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has asked the City of Nanaimo to establish a bylaw to collect school site acquisition charges for new residential development. (News Bulletin photo)

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools has asked the City of Nanaimo to establish a bylaw to collect school site acquisition charges for new residential development. (News Bulletin photo)

Developers could soon be paying additional charges when applying for residential building permits in Nanaimo.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools has asked the City of Nanaimo to start a process by which the city will collect a school site acquisition charge on new developments of four or more units. Money raised through the charge will be used to purchase land to increase school capacity over the next 10 years.

School site acquisition charges are charges collected by local governments and are transferred to school districts to help them purchase new school sites needed because of new residential development.

The school district’s request was made in a letter, dated June 17, from Nanaimo-Ladysmith Public Schools secretary treasurer Mark Walsh to Jake Rudolph, City of Nanaimo chief administration officer.

The letter noted, based on anticipated growth for Nanaimo over the coming decade, up to 4,569 residential units will be built, which will draw an estimated 1,006 additional school students to the city.

“Given the district is largely at capacity in the areas of the city that it serves, it will require additional capacity,” Walsh said in the letter.

The school district estimates it will have to purchase 16.4 hectares to meet the needs of incoming elementary, middle and secondary school students and has asked for site acquisition charges – ranging from $600 to $1,000 per unit, depending on the number of units per hectare – to be applied to developments of four or more units. The city has discretion to apply the charges to developments of two or more units as it already does for development cost charges.

Claire Negrin, city manager of subdivision, presented an information report to city council July 5 and said the charges would be collected by the city at either subdivision or building permit stage.

“We have started consultations with the school district on the terms of the school site acquisition charge bylaw that includes the land that they require, the number of students, the amount of development that is expected to happen over the next 10 years,” Negrin said. “The school district is hoping to have this bylaw established by the fall.”

Once the terms of the bylaw are worked out between the school district and city staff, those terms would be presented to council, which would have 60 days to respond with a decision if it is in favour or not.

The school district is seeking charges for development in Nanaimo and District of Lantzville.

Coun. Don Bonner asked if the charges would be applied to micro units, such as bachelor suites, which would not normally house families with school-age children.

“Many of the units we build are micro units or one-bedroom apartments, which I’m going to probably guess are not going to be having school-aged children in them, but yet we’re still collecting this thing,” Bonner said. “So is that just going to be a blanket, whatever units you build you’re going to get dinged between [$600] and $1,000?”

Bonner said that would ideally encourage building of larger units, but didn’t think the amount charged would make much of a difference and he wondered why developers should pay the charge for units that won’t have children. He also asked if commercial developments that could attract employees with children shouldn’t also pay the charges.

Negrin said some types of development, such as non-profit housing, are exempt from the charges and charges for micro units could be part of the discussions with the school district.

“I believe that the legislation does actually allow us to charge [development cost charges] and school site acquisition charges on commercial and industrial development and that would be through the same bylaw where we would bring forward costs for two units or more and that would be through research and development of that bylaw,” Negrin said.

Municipalities across the Lower Mainland and in other B.C. regions levy school site acquisition charges for residential development.
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