The Town of Canmore has set a maximum fee of over $650,000 for PrincewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the receiver in charge of Three Sisters Mountain Village (TSMV), to complete the necessary application fees in hopes of making the land marketable in 2013.
Prior to the decision, which involved a significant motion from Councillor Sean Krausert and a lengthy debate within council, PwC had requested the Town lower its applications fee price from $952,500 to $265,000.
In a report to council on Tuesday (Jan. 15), administration recommended council approve a total charge of $360,920 for PwC to complete an area structure plan, Land Use Bylaw amendment and block subdivision applications.
Alaric Fish, the Town’s manager of planning and development, noted that the figure is based on the area of land proposed for development, which is approximately 172 hectares and does not include the area known as Site 9 or all green space not proposed for development.
“This is a fairly conservative estimate,” Fish said. “There are going to be a lot of people working on this project,” he said, adding administration is confident the fee proposed was adequate.
After a defeated motion was proposed by Coun. Jim Ridley, who cited unforeseen and indirect costs that could be accumulated as the project moves along, to increase the fees to $500,000, Krausert made a motion for council to set a maximum fee of $654,250.
“This gives us a buffer to protect citizens of Canmore from an overrun or unforeseen items,” Krausert said regarding his motion. “It ensures we don’t accidentally cause them to subsidize the application.
“We’re in uncharted territory here,” he continued. “It will encourage the applicant to make things as streamlined as possible because they know there is cost associated with more time. This is going to be in the best interest of the Town.”
Coun. Joanna McCallum indicated she would support Krausert’s amending motion.
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” she said. “It protects the ratepayer and gives us a level of comfort.”
Speaking to the motion, the town’s manager of municipal infrastructure, Gary Buxton, said he wasn’t sure what administration would do with these high fees, as the Town currently does not have the ability to track the amount of time they spend on projects.
Responding to Buxton, Krausert said administration could start recording time manually on paper.
Mayor John Borrowman voiced his opposition to Krausert’s motion and reassured his full confidence in administration’s recommendation.
“I’m totally convinced they have established the appropriate fee,” he said.
“I have to go back to the numbers by administration,” added Coun. Gordie Miskow, who also said he wouldn’t support the amendment. “They’re doing the work in the planning and development. They know what they’re doing. We should move forward with this number.”
In a 4-3 vote, Krausert’s amendment was passed with Borrowman, Coun. Hans Helder and Miskow not voting in favour.
Due to the accepted amendment, both Helder and Miskow vowed not to support the original motion as amended.
“It’s not unreasonable for a community to take a certain amount of risk,” Helder said. “To try and take all risk out of the equation is not a reasonable way to do business.”
Despite supporting the motion as amended, the mayor expressed his discomfort with the situation.
“I’m disappointed it’s come to this,” he said, adding he fails to see the logic in the amendment.
“The decision is based entirely on optics and not on reason,” he added.
McCallum pointed out that in the end the decision is in the best interest of the taxpayers.
“If there’s a financial burden it allows protection for ratepayers down the road,” she said. “It ensures the applicant is efficient. We are paying due diligence to this subject matter.”
The amended original motion passed with a 5-2 vote.