Langford, a city long known for being business friendly, is cutting fees related to property development and construction in a bid to keep its economy growing.
Despite relatively low property taxes and a streamlined bureaucracy, Langford’s raft of amenity charges on land development has made it one of the more cost-heavy municipalities in the Capital Region.
Langford Mayor Stew Young announced Saturday that the City will cut fees by about 25 per cent that are related to property development. He also vowed to keep fee increases pegged to inflation for at least five years. Those policies still need to be passed by council.
“We are going to try not to take as much from the development community, not as much time, money or land,” Young said at Langford’s economic forum at Bear Mountain. “We want to make the business climate stable for the next five years. Having certainty is very important in this economy. We’re not in a downturn, but we’re not in an upturn either.”
Specifically, the City is looking to reduce developer amenity contributions, such as the amount of public open space extracted from new developments, the level of road and sidewalk improvements and the amount of bonding money, for instance, required during the subdivision process.
“We’re trying to reduce development costs by 20 to 25 per cent, but I suspect there’s 10 to 15 per cent more to come for developers,” said city administrator Jim Bowden.
Langford will also be looking at pegging business property tax increases to residential increases, relieving businesses of taking on more of the overall tax burden.
“We want to assist businesses that are here,” Bowden said. “We are looking at our tax policy. We want to make sure business taxes stay low.”
Although yet to be approved by council, the mayor said Langford’s property taxes will go up about 2.5 or three per cent, roughly the rate of inflation.
Permit fee reductions are part of Langford’s five-year economic plan to attract and retain businesses in the city.
Langford also needs to think about ways of capitalizing on projects such as the Seaspan shipbuilding contract by providing support services, and with the arrival of Rugby Canada, to promote sport tourism, said John Juricic, who sits on Langford’s economic advisory panel.
“Technology is the No. 1 industry for the region. Lets get some of those jobs,” he told the crowd of Langford developers and business owners.
At the invitation-only economic forum on Saturday, Langford also unveiled its “How To Guide” for new businesses and investors, written by Avi Friedman, a professor at McGill University’s school of architecture.
The guide highlights the city’s low taxes, high rate of population growth, greenspaces and recreation facilities. It distills the various business permit and property development processes into flowcharts and simple forms.
Friedman, who spoke at the forum, has been helping define Langford’s development philosophy over the past six years, said the How To Guide simplifies procedures, but also announces to investors and company owners that Langford is “open for business.”
“In tough economic times one must be fully cognisant of the fact that (cities) need to be competitive through simplifying processes,” Friedman said.
“Future economic forces will be challenging. You need to be open for business and to attract young families to support an economic development strategy.”