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Signal Hill Homes threatened by development costs

Developers object to $9.5 million bill before even getting started

It could cost $9.5 million to put a new neighbourhood in Pemberton before ground is even broken for construction.

Pemberton residents Bruce van Mook and Garth Phare hope to situate 462 housing units on lands adjacent to Signal Hill Elementary School near the town centre. The proponents of the project, dubbed Signal Hill Homes, hope to build the homes on three pieces of land in what's being called the biggest subdivision in Pemberton's history.

Before building the homes, however, van Mook and Phare may have to pony up a lot of cash to fix some public amenities in and around the property.

In a report to a June 16 Committee of the Whole meeting for the Village of Pemberton, Development Services Manager Caroline Lamont writes that an existing dyke along the north-east side of Pemberton Creek does not meet the safety standards necessary to protect the village.

The dyke, which is located on a property that's been owned by Phare's family for over two decades, was constructed there without the owner's consent sometime between 1984 and 1986. That property is now planned for 32 townhome units as part of Signal Hill Homes.

Van Mook said in an interview that upgrading the dyke to safer standards could cost about $1.5 million. Add to that around $4 million for upgrades to surrounding sewers, nearly $2 million for a development cost charge and almost $2 million for a community amenity charge and the developers are on the hook for $9.5 million.

"What we're being asked to do under the ground is lightening out the opportunity above the ground," van Mook said.

The Pemberton Valley Dyking District has applied for a Build Canada grant that could cover 90 per cent of the cost of upgrading the dyke and the developers could make up the balance of that, which would amount to anywhere between $100,000 and $150,000.

"It's quite significantly on a portion of the land," he said. "We're not talking two metres here, it might be as much as 30 metres. It's a big chunk of land that has been eaten up by the dyke."

On top of the dyke, the developers are expected to pay $1,905,611 towards a development cost charge, funds that help the village pay the costs associated with providing sewage, water, drainage and highway facilities to help service the development.

They're also expected to pay a community amenity charge of $1,836,055 that helps the village offset the impacts of such a development on public facilities, services and amenities.

Beyond those charges, Lamont's report noted that existing sewer infrastructure isn't sufficient to accommodate the kind of load that Signal Hill Homes could bring. The cost of making the necessary sewer improvements could cost the developers around $4 million - money the developers don't think they should be spending.

"If we pay for the upgrades of the sewer line, then we can't pay for the community amenity charge because there just isn't that kind of money in the development," Phare said in an interview. "It doesn't make any sense. We're trying to put a product on the market that would be attainable."

If the Build Canada grant doesn't come through, van Mook said he and Phare may have to rethink the whole development.

"If the Build Canada grant didn't happen, we couldn't do the development cost charge for $2 million and then a further $1.5 million for the dyke upgrade," he said. "Plus they're asking us to spend upwards at $4 million on upgrading of infrastructure. We're pretty heavily burdened by cost at this point."

Lamont said staff at the Village of Pemberton will be meeting with the Signal Hill developers Thursday (June 25) to go through options for who will pay for what servicing. The project, which has wide community support, has already gone through two readings at council and just passed its public hearing phase.