A delegation representing the municipality at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is bringing back some prestigious hardware on their return to Prince Edward County.
On Tuesday, the County of Prince Edward received the Peter J. Marshall Innovation Award for its efforts to support new housing development in the municipality.
The award is an annual competitive process to acknowledge municipalities who have had creativity and success in implementing new, innovative ways of serving the public. The laurel is sponsored by AMO, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks & Treasurers of Ontario, the Canadian Council for Public Private Partnerships, the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association, and the Ontario Municipal Administrators’ Association.
“We are honoured to receive this recognition for our innovative approach that gave Council the comfort necessary to move forward with this expensive public infrastructure,” said Mayor Steve Ferguson, who , along with County CAO Marcia Wallace, accepted the award on behalf of the County. “Municipal staff thought outside the box to come up with this approach that really could be a model for other rural communities that are experiencing unplanned or unexpected growth and need to expand infrastructure to meet that demand.”
In rural communities with small tax bases, the cost of building infrastructure to support growth are daunting. The COVID pandemic introduced unprecedented growth for rural communities like Prince Edward County.
With debt financing limited and somewhat risky for municipalities, the County found an innovative solution by negotiating upfront financing agreements with developers to pre-pay development charges at the draft subdivision approval stage, rather than when building permits are issued.
Under the municipality’s line of thinking, the financial risk for growth is reduced for both the developer and the municipality, ensuring that “growth pays for growth” and costs are not carried by the existing population through, for example, an increase in water or wastewater rates. While this approach is used in large urban centres for multi-million-dollar projects, it has not been used in smaller rural communities.
The County engaged with developers who were seeking draft approval for their subdivision proposals. The County then created a template financing agreement that provided for the developer to cover all of the servicing costs for the new subdivisions upfront. These pre-payments will cover the County’s debt costs for this major infrastructure (including new water tower, water plant, wastewater plant and associated trunk mains) for at least the next 10 years. This arrangement protects the municipal ratepayer, while giving developers the certainty that their developments will be able to connect to water and wastewater infrastructure.
This approach provides the County with financial stability as it maintains and expands core infrastructure to meet the growing demand for housing. The agreement and approach provide a potential template for other smaller municipalities to manage growth and demand for housing.