CORNWALL, Ontario – A Cornwall woman is fuming after getting caught in a perfect storm of new home construction rules that will see city hall collect a hefty bill.
Pamela Carson and her husband Ray are in the homestretch of making a move to Cornwall. Their new home on Kirkman Court comes with a spacious rear patio that, very nearly at the last minute, Carson decided she wanted walled off.
No problem – except that city hall is now charging her $2,250 to add a minor variance to the property.
What she finds even more confounding is that if she waits until next June – a year from the time she and her husband took ownership – the bill actually drops to about $580.
The big question coming from Carson is, why is she paying more now to allow for the minor variance at her home, instead of a year from now?
“The issue is the money,” she said in an interview. “There’s a big discrepancy…for the same documentation.
“Quite frankly, why should I pay anything? I paid for the building permit.”
That’s true, but after taking ownership of her home Carson and her husband determined that the volume of traffic on nearby Montreal Road, not to mention a bike path that comes very close to her property, would be a distraction on their back patio.
So, they applied for a minor variance to turn the patio into a three-season room with walls.
The variance was approved – but at a cost of $2,250. Carson was astounded at the bill, and even more incensed because if she waited until next June the fee for the minor variance would have been reduced to $580.
“Cornwall says ‘Choose Cornwall,'” said Carson, who was born and raised here before moving away. “But it looks like this was a mistake.”
The reason for the discrepancy in fees, said planning manager Ken Bedford, lies in newly-revamped cost-recovery fees the city has implemented.
Bedford said there are different types of fees associated with completing minor variances on Cornwall properties, including those for new construction, and others for older homes.
While many municipalities typically have just one fee for such a scenario, Cornwall created two, so that owners of older homes in the city would not be penalized for making renovations or other changes to their property.
“We wanted to give some more relief to the older existing development,” said Bedford. “That’s what she’s caught up in, is new construction. If the house was a few years old she’d be paying the $580.”
Bedford said the fees are charged so that developers and new home owners are not seeing the construction completed on the backs of taxpayers via city staff time. Instead the cost of staff time to prepare and process documents is borne by the developer or property owner.
“It was the last city council that said because of budget constraints…we have to start to approach cost recovery,” he said.
Carson could apply to the Ontario Municipal Board, but the likelihood of a ruling in her favour is very much up for debate.
Carson has paid the bill, and is in the midst of moving in.