Taking financial risk could reap development rewards for C-K

first_imgIf Chatham-Kent wants to see the pace of industrial and residential development increase, it will likely require taking some financial risks to incentivize growth.Senior staff served notice to municipal council that it’s developing plans that will require local politicians to decide whether they wants to make upfront investments in infrastructure such as roads, sewer and water – to be recouped later – to entice investments by developers.John Norton, general manager of community development, said he has asked several investors what it will take for them to come to Chatham-Kent.“They said two things – one, is we’re looking for financial incentives to come to your community to build something and, secondly, how easy or difficult is it to work with your municipal approval process?”Stuart McFadden, director of economic development, provided details on real scenarios regarding potential investments Chatham-Kent had been in the running for, but ended up losing out on.He said Chatham-Kent was short-listed by the province for a company looking for about 80 hectares (200 acres) to build a $450-million manufacturing facility that would have brought 400 jobs.“We did not have the industrial land that was fully serviced, and it was not zoned properly,” McFadden said.He said another scenario involved a potential $90-million investment in 40 hectares (100 acres) to create 180 jobs, but that company needed 25 megawatts of power that was “uninterruptible.”That is currently not available in Chatham-Kent, McFadden added.McFadden also noted a light manufacturing operation in Essex County was looking for about 7,000 square metres (75,000 square feet) of space in Chatham-Kent.A building to meet that need wasn’t available locally, so the company moved elsewhere, he added.“There’s growth to be had out there,” Mayor Darrin Canniff said. “It’s just what are we going to do to harness all that as a council?”There is currently 11 hectares (27 acres) left in the Bloomfield Business Park, but there still needs to be a road built and services provided to bring it online.Norton said during this term, council will likely have to decide whether it wants to begin the process to create another industrial park.“We don’t want to be in a position in five or 10 years in which we’re telling investors that we have no more lands in our business park. You need to go to the private sector to buy industrial park land,” he said.He added owning a business park gives council the option to do things the private sector doesn’t do.“Sometimes we discount the price or give other incentives because they’re coming to our community and they’re bringing jobs here.”Norton said he is a believer in business parks, noting nearby London is seeing this type of investment pay off with large businesses coming in.He added council can also look at investing upfront on infrastructure for private industrial lands if the owners agree to return the money within a certain period of time.Finding enough housing, as well as affordable housing, also continues to be an issue in Chatham-Kent.Norton said, currently,  the developer is expected to front those costs when new homes are built.He said municipal officials are hearing from some housing developers who can’t afford to move quickly but, if the municipality built a main arterial road for the area and put in the sewers, would be willing to build housing quicker.“We would do that and would cover those upfront costs through development charges or agreements with individual builders,” Norton said.While many houses in the $400,000 price range are being built in Chatham-Kent, Norton talked about incentivizing development of more affordable housing.“Maybe if we’re going to impose new development charges on higher-end homes, we could discount them and provide other incentives for those builders that are willing to build some houses at the lower price at the retail end,” he said.Norton said council can expect to be hearing about the issue in the coming weeks and months, and receive recommendations on actions that can be taken to try to incentivize growth in [email protected] @Chathamewslast_img