The town is considering jumping its off-site levy fees by 27 per cent to help finance identified infrastructure projects.

On May 14, town councillors heard a proposal to jump the total off-site levies by about $50,000 per hectare. The town anticipates over $200 million in capital projects due to growth over the next 20 years and with this increase $140 million of the cost would be paid through off-site levies.

Should the proposal be approved, off-site levies would range from $220,960 to $254,477 per hectares, up from the current $170,896 to $201,262 applied for development in Cochrane. It's broken into seven infrastructure categories that largely centres upon water/wastewater needs and transportation.

Added to the list was a new category classified as "community amenities" that are pegged at $10,294 per hectare. It's a new source of funding recently made permissible by the changes to the Municipal Government Act and the town is applying to help offset some of the costs of developing the new police station expecting to break ground in 2019, currently estimated to cost $17.4 million. It would pay for 26 per cent of the cost of development.

The largest jump is an additional $43,000 per hectare to compensate for transportation needs.

The proposed off-site levy increase takes into account an $11 million increase in the cost of a Centre Ave. separated crossing that is now penciled in at $32 million. Two new transportation projects on the list are $6.6 million for Southbow South Section Phase 2 of the James Walker Trail and a $12.3 million Hwy. 1A-downtown intersection improvement.

The new off-levy structure calls for 40 per cent of the money being put up front by developers prior to endorsement of the subdivision/development permit and 60 per cent one year later. Currently, the town requires 50 per cent upfront but allow for developers to pay it over three years to ease the financial burden. Because of the significant number of high-cost infrastructure projects on tap, the town wants to improve their upfront cashflow.

The door has also been left open to consider applying off-site levies for recreation facilities and fire stations because of the MGA changes.

Council is holding a non-statutory public hearing on May 28.

The proposal climbs Cochrane to just below Airdrie for off-site levies collected but Medicine Hat remains the highest of municipalities used in comparison at $288,639 per hectare. Chestermere, Okotoks and Red Deer are all lower at this point in time.

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