Take the money and run

Michael Veenstra speaks to city council's economic development and planning committee on Tuesday.Sometimes you have to work at finding an excuse to punt an unpleasant chore down the road. At other times, the excuse just presents itself.

City councillors did not have to find any justifications, this time around, for their latest delay of the development charges debate.

In December, they put off the difficult decision on whether or not to reinstate the fees to builders by arguing developers needed more time to study the issue.

This time, the reason was the requisite consultant's report, the quote for which has gone stale.

There's no disputing we need a fresh quote, since the Hemson Consulting proposal is based on 2010 figures. The question should be why the city didn't suggest getting the fresh quotes in December, knowing we'd have to have the debate anyway.

Deciding whether or not to ding developers for new properties is an unpleasant political chore, rather like mowing the lawn. But if you choose not to mow the lawn just yet, the least you can do is plug in the mower battery for the next time.

It turns out, however, that the most recent delay did bear fruit. Michael Veenstra, who is spearheading local developers' campaign against development charges, came back Tuesday with a pot-sweetener: they're offering to provide some as-yet-unspecified financial help for the city's planned twin-pad arena in exchange for council backing off on development charges.

Before Veenstra dropped this latest offer on the table, Councillor and planning committee chairman Mike Kalivas jokingly asked whether the eventual twin-pad facility should be named the Veenstra Arena.

Veenstra appeared stunned by the gag, perhaps wondering whether his offer had been leaked to council beforehand. It was more likely Kalivas, council's resident wit, thought up the gag when city operations director David Dick mentioned the twin-pad as one large project that could benefit from development charges.

There's not much to this offer of assistance yet. But there is also little to suggest any real appetite on council for a debate on bringing back development charges.

So here's an idea: negotiate with the builders on a quid-pro-quo. Take the money for the arena, in exchange for not a permanent break from development fees, but a break commensurate to their contribution, say, three years or five years.

That way, you can punt the problem all the way to the next council, and have some cash to show for it as well.

The Brockville Wildwood Arena. Has a nice ring to it.