The Township of Minden Hills has conceded it erred in following provisions of the Ontario Building Code (OBC) and has made changes to an upcoming public meeting after being questioned about not complying with the statutory notice period.

The concession came after a taxpayer, Matthew Wesley, wrote to council and sent a letter to The Highlander.

Wesley pointed to a recent staff report proposing a 14.29 per cent increase in permit fees for residential construction, and a 50 per cent increase in building administration fees. He claimed the jumps come with no rationale, as required by provincial legislation, nor was 21 days notice provided of the public meeting required under section 7(6) of the Building Code Act (BCA).

Wesley told The Highlander, “knowing how the relevant legislation applies, and being a concerned taxpayer when the municipality tries to operate without transparency or due process, I feel the need to speak to the issue.

“Most concerning seems to be that they do not even know about the relevant legislation. This particular issue affects me, as it should anyone else who will be taking out permits in the near future. If a fee increase went to attracting and retaining qualified staff to help service the demand in local construction, that I could get behind.”

He added the proposed fee increases, if used appropriately, “could improve an outdated compensation model that has seen chronic vacancy in that department after a hemorrhage of staff. Qualified building professionals protect the municipality and the taxpayer from risk and liability. In-house staff are also more affordable than consultants.”

The township has contracted out its planning to D.M. Wills Associates of Peterborough ever since former planner Ian Clendening left.

Mayor Bob Carter said it is estimated by the AMCTO (Association of Municipal Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario) that municipalities, no matter their size, must produce between 200-300 reports per year for the provincial government. “This specific report is required by provincial legislation, but it is only submitted to council. Somewhere, the report was missed a number of years ago and nobody noted it,” he said.

“We thanked Mr. Wesley for bringing this to our attention and we will be producing this report regularly in the future. The report provides council with assurance that the fees collected do not exceed the costs for providing the service.”

Carter added, “our review of all fees was meant to bring us into line with the fees charged by neigbouring municipalities and to try to reduce the burden on taxpayers who are subsidizing services provided to users.”

CAO Trisha McKibbin wrote Wesley to say after reviewing files and speaking with finance and building department staff, “it appears annual reports have not been completed as outlined in Section 7(4) of the Building Code Act and thank you for bringing that to our attention. The township will ensure that these reports are completed annually moving forward in accordance with applicable legislation.”

As for the statutory public meeting, she added the township will be holding one on March 30 as outlined in a public notice. She said the meeting will focus on all other sections of the fees and charges bylaw, except the section related to building permits and fees. She said that meeting will likely take place in April and, “the township will ensure to provide you and the public with the statutory notice of this meeting. I look forward to seeing you at the public meeting.”