Letter: Is development the solution for lower taxes?

Since this past municipal election, we have read comments from both councillors and newspaper people about the need for more development to help offset water rates and to help defray the cost of other various items of infrastructure.

More recently, one of our local papers, describes how our declining population is the most pressing matter before us. It was suggested that promoting development might solve our population problem and that Shire Hall must process building applications more efficiently and cheaper to help make this happen. Who and how this will be paid for is still unknown?

For years, developers justifiably claimed that the cost of permits discouraged them from building here in the county. However, this situation changed sometime ago – and development is starting to happen. However, let’s remember that developers are business people who complain a lot about how local government ties their hands and cost them money – often developers exaggerate this point for their benefit.

When I hear politicians claiming development helps to reduce costs, I get an uneasy feeling building from within. As a long time taxpayer, I don’t ever recall my property taxes, nor water and hydro cost going down because of increased development. Can anyone give an example of when this happened?

The point about our declining population being a real problem is dead on! So, what contributed to his situation?

About 13 years ago, I remember attending a meeting at Shire Hall hosted by the economic development department – a much different entity back then. The meeting was called with all who the department deemed to be stakeholders in the tourism trade. The practice of attracting wealthy retirees from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal was already well established, this meeting was an effort to encourage more businesses to join in.

The dust really hit the fan when the department tried to revoke their invitation to the cottage and campground association. As unbelievable as this sounds, someone at Shire Hall decided that they didn’t want businesses that attracted families! Apparently, someone felt that families renting cottages and camp sites didn’t bring enough “permanent” money into the community. The public uproar overturned the department’s decision to exclude anyone. However, as we know that direction for the county remained unchanged for years and I believe it contributed greatly to our aging and declining population.

Apparently, no consideration was given to retirees no longer being prime baby makers and over time our population would shrink – which it has. It was believed that by attracting rich retirees meant new businesses and jobs for the county. No doubt this did happen in a minor way, but for the most part it meant more county people selling their properties at a price they only dreamt about and moving out – taking their kids with them, resulting in empty classrooms in our schools, soaring real estate prices and a weak labour market.

The push for development is a questionable one for me – will it attract families and younger adults? I don’t see how it will if there are not employment opportunities here for them. Unless upper levels of government get involved, the idea of affordable housing in these new developments won’t happen. So just who is the target group our planning department and developers hope to attract?

Council and our community need to communicate with each other about our future development. Unlike those tourism initiatives – future development must pay its own way and developers must contribute their share to the community. Anything less is – well less and haven’t we had enough of that?

Dennis Fox

Northport