Two-Tier Municipal Structure in the Niagra Region


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From the Saskatoon Regional Growth Summit, Mike Trojan

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  • Thank you for inviting me.I’m not sure Niagara’s structure and approach has applicability for Saskatoon; however, I’ll share some background about our Region, our structure, responsibilities, funding and approach to the development of a couple of major strategies as food for thought to your deliberations.
  • The Region was created in 1970 by the Province following the amalgamation of 26 municipalities into 12 lower-tiered area municipalities and the transformation of a 2-County system into a Region with a distinct set of service and infrastructure responsibilities. We are home to 440,000 people – projected to grow to 545,000 by 2031. Governed by a 31-member Council – includes 12 area mayors, 18 members elected at large – loosely based on rep. by POP. 40+ years later and there are still some who can’t accept the 2-tier structure and feel there are better solutions – either a full single-tier structure or fewer amalgamated area municipalities with no Region. We are most successful when:In spite of our structure, our political and community leaders view the Region as a single economic entity. When we agree on a single agenda and set of priorities, and advocate to senior levels of government with a common voice – that can happen within a 2-tier governance structure – but it’s not always easy. We adhere to the major objectives of Strategic Plan – developed through inclusion.
  • The iconic Falls and Niagara River/US border represent the eastern boundary of our Region. We are also bounded on the north and south by water (Lakes Ontario and Erie). To the west by Hamilton-Haldimand – Norfolk County and Golden Horseshoe. Niagara is also transected by the in a north-south direction by the Welland Canal (a 26-mile long harbour) and in an east-west direction by the Niagara escarpment (creates servicing and transportation challenges).Have 12 municipalities, with populations ranging from 6,000 to 132,000; 26 dispersed settlement areas; and an abundance of agricultural land with a $2.8 B impact on local economy – tender fruit vineyards, wineries, poultry, hogs, dairy and large greenhouse industry. So, agribusiness is still a big part of our economy. I’ve just started a 6-month gig with our local community college which has its own winery, brewery and culinary school as learning enterprises.
  • 700 km of arterial roads – a provincial hub networkWe are a border region – a gateway for goods and people to access major commercial centres in Ontario and northeast US
  • The Region’s responsibilities evolved: an initial set upon creation – water and wastewater treatment, policing, planning and growth management, arterial roads, seniors (LTC), social assistance, child care, landfills, public health.A variety of others as a result of further downloading and realignment in the 90’s (social housing, ambulance, POA).A few as a result of local decision-making and agreement (waste collection, recycling, transit).$800 M of services, 3,000 employees, 100 work locations
  • A number of responsibilities are split or shared between Region and area municipalities.Planning - Regional OP, local Ops. – lots of Provincial influenceTransportation – arterial roads vs. local.Water, wastewater – treatment vs. local distribution.Transit – local vs. Regional.Economic Development – shared responsibility – recently developed a networked community model in conjunction with area municipalities, local business community – P.S.E. – Brock, Niagara College, Chambers of Commerce.
  • Property taxes, water rates, user fees – 58%. Entire assessment base of all 12 municipalities pays for tax-support regional services. Province contributes 42% toward cost-shared programs (public health, social assistance, child care, seniors care and social housing).
  • Deliver $800 M of services: Capital Program $200M/yearDebt $225M Largest - $243.8 M – social services $45 M from property taxesLargest net service cost – policing - $153.5 M from local property taxesWhere $ goes: $243.8 M = Community Services 51.4 M = Recycling & Garbage 56.2 M = Roads153.5 M = Policing 7.2 M = Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority 54.0 M = Niagara Regional Housing 109.6 M = Water & Waste Water 39.5 M = Emergency Medical Services 43.4 M = Public Health 31.7 M = Economic Development, Planning & General GovernmentAverage tax bill: Region - 1,300 - 47%Local - 1,036 – 37%Schools - 464 – 16%Total $2,800
  • Enough about who we are, what we do, how we’re funded – want to talk about a couple of major strategies (recently developed) that not only chart our future, but speak to the collective, collaborative approach that is possible in a 2-tier system.New legislative context in Ontario – mid-2000’s that required RPP into conformity with P2G (Provincial Growth Plan) by 2009.Required assessment of infrastructure, transportation, agriculture, environment, social, cultural opportunities and constraints. Phases:1 – Understanding Niagara2 – Anticipating (growth): various forecasts – high, medium, low growth3 – Options consideration4 – Refine preferred option5 – Amend O.P. to implement optionEngaged residents, area municipalities, business community, politicians, other agencies (NPCA), Province Options evaluation matrix – fiscal health, ecological indicators, urban containment, housing mix, infrastructure investment, social, health, culture
  • Next StepsAmendment to the Regional Policy Plan and all local Official PlansOther follow-up actions and strategies include: Implement Gateway Zone and Centre Action Plan;Servicing capacity reviews for Wainfleet and West Lincoln;Review Master Servicing Plans;Review Development Charges By-law and Smarter Niagara incentives program;Develop an inter-municipal transit work plan;Develop a new strategy for affordable housing; andDevelop sustainability indicators and monitoring program.
  • Niagara expected to grow to 545,000 population (currently 440,000)Show Grow South strategyIntensification in Lincoln – St. Catharines greenbelt lands below escarpmentStrategy wasn’t without its challenges and hurdles:Appeals by Township of West Lincoln – wanted urban boundary expansion – more growth than included in planAppeal by Province – didn’t support our growth projection and opposed additional growth in West LincolnAppeals to go to OMB – a body currently under review by the Province
  • As I mentioned: The next strategy I want to touch on is our Economic Gateway Strategy. Some context: In June 2013: 12,300 fewer working than year earlierUnemployment rate stable at 8.3%17,500 unemployed – looking for work. Household income lower than Provincial averageSocial assistance caseload – grew by 47% 5 years follow 2008-2009 recession over 20,000 on O.W. another 12,000 on ODSPNo longer the manufacturing powerhouse of 3 decades agoStill a need for further economic diversificationWater 3 sides/tender fruit lands/escarpment/canal – International boarder (4 crossings) – Strong potential to be an economic gatewayWhen the Province established: P2G and Greenbelt Plans – growth was restricted in NiagaraNiagara granted unique designations by the Province – took a lot of advocacy work on part of the Region
  • How did we capitalize on the unique designation from Province? Provincial designates “Gateway Zone and Centre”Region commissioned report in 2008 to identify opportunities – an incentives strategyIn previous section I talked about 2031 Growth Plan – amendment to Reg-Pol Plan which helped define the GatewayThe Gateway Strategy involved joint effort between the Province, Region and L.A.Ms to develop a comprehensive strategy and related policies for the Gateway
  • Important to remember the key factors for NiagaraLow/modest growth (population and employment)Economy in transition – manufacturing base of automotive, pulp and paper and steel disappearingLots of industrial brown field lands in centre and zoneEconomy in need of diversificationProvince’s Growth Plan – even though somewhat restrictive for Niagara was used the updates to its OP and those of the 12 A.Ms to create an opportunity – a comprehensive strategy for renewal and growth in the gateway levels
  • Employment Lands Study2,000 hectares of vacant employment landsLand prices competitive with neighboring regionsMajority of inventory is “greenfield”Good mix of parcel sizes
  • Employment Lands StudySmall portion of lands adjacent to border but all within 25 km; within 1 hour of 4 international airportsSome clusters with access to 400 series highwaysCanal – opportunity for heavy industry
  • Employment Lands Study1/3 serviced, 1/3 partially serviced, 1/3 un-servicedMost lands without detailed plansInfrastructure/servicing needs approximately $40 MPolicy/strategy to accommodate 8,000 jobs
  • (Agreed to and developed by the Gateway Strategy Committee)Goals:Revitalize and diversify regional economyIncrease opportunities for cross border trade, goods movement, tourismNiagara as economic centre to international marketAll designated employment lands in 5 municipalities (Welland, Port Colborne, Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, Thorold) become C.I.PsTarget Sectors – manufacturing, construction equipment, transportation/logistics, agriculture/food processing, tourism support services
  • Tax Increment-Based Grant ProgramEach applicant development proposal is evaluated on a scoring system matrixPoints are earned for: # FT jobs createdConstruction valueLEED certification levelsConformity with Smart Growth design criteriaGrants:% return on the incremental or new taxes generated from the development for 5 or 10 years% return on D.C. Marketing Plan in draft stages (to be finalized 1st Quarter 2014) – marketing focus group with local business leaders
  • Some things that we need to constantly remind ourselves of: Our collective economic output is not that large. Need to view our entire Region as a single economic entity. The competition is outside our boundaries so we shouldn’t be competing with each other.Certain services and infrastructure are best provided and paid for on a regional basis (e.g. waste water/water treatment, social and health services, policing, ambulance)Vision & Strategy – major strategic plans, growth strategies, economic development strategies, etc. are best developed at regional level – that doesn’t preclude certain levels of autonomy and diversity – but all should be complementaryCreate the conditions for growth on a regional scale
  • Two-Tier Municipal Structure in the Niagra Region

    1. 1. Niagara Region Two Tiers – One Vision Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    2. 2. Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    3. 3. Urban Area Boundaries Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    4. 4. Setting Foundation – Route to Prosperity & Jobs Gateway to US Eastern Seaboard Markets Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    5. 5. Niagara Region Responsibilities • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Waste Management – Recycling, Garbage Collection and Landfill Operations Senior Citizens Programs and Homes Homelessness Prevention, Hostels and Emergency Shelter Social Assistance Affordable Housing Child Care Services Public Health Programs Tax and Assessment Police Services Water and Wastewater Treatment Regional Roads Planning and Growth Management Emergency Response Management Land Ambulance and Dispatch Provincial Offences and Court Administration Culture and Sustainability Planning Agriculture and Local Food Initiatives Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    6. 6. Planning Systems (Land Use and Transportation) • Constitution Act – “municipal affairs” and land are provincial responsibilities – no specific federal role • Based on legislation, compliance is required with Provincial expectations – there is some room for “tailoring” to local circumstances • Many Provincial interests in Planning – Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of the Environment, Niagara Escarpment Commission, Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Culture, and more coordinated through ‘one window’ at Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    7. 7. Where the Money Comes From Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    8. 8. Where the Money Goes Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    9. 9. Niagara 2031 Growth Management Strategy What Is It? • Process that examines land use and infrastructure to determine how and where municipalities grow Why Do It? • Create sustainable plan to accommodate population, housing and employment growth • Provincial legislative context (P2G, Greenbelt, PPS) How? • 5-phase plan that engaged a wide range of community stakeholders Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    10. 10. Niagara 2031 - Growth Management Strategy Key Features: • All Municipalities grow – balances market demand for growth with land supply and infrastructure capacity • Meet Provincial objectives – efficient use of land – no urban boundary expansion • Provides long-term growth in largest urban centres • Meets Provincial intensification targets and people/jobs targets • Supports development of economic gateway zone and centre • Supports “Grow South” strategy • Provides basis to access Provincial infrastructure funding Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    11. 11. Niagara 2031 - Growth Management Strategy Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    12. 12. Economic Gateway Strategy Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    13. 13. Economic Gateway Strategy Policy drivers & background Ontario Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Designates “Economic Gateway Zone & Centre” in south Niagara Region GHK Gateway Report (2008) Identifies opportunities and recommended possible incentives strategy Region Amendment 2-2009 (Niagara 2031) Defines Gateway Zone & Centre in the RPP…provides general direction Locals Local Official Plans & Initiatives Various local initiatives contained in local plans to implement the Gateway Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    14. 14. Economic Gateway Strategy Policy drivers & background Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe Gateway Employment Lands Study GHK Gateway Report (2008) Gateway Community Improvement Plan Amendment 2-2009 (Niagara 2031) Local Official Plans & Initiatives GAP: COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY FOR THE GATEWAY LANDS Other Implementation Studies/Plans Market Research Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    15. 15. Key Findings of the ELS • Estimated 2020 hectares of vacant designated employment land in the Gateway • Land prices are competitive with Hamilton, Kitchener and Cambridge • Majority of the inventory is “greenfield” land • Good mix of different sized parcels (small, medium and large) Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    16. 16. Key Findings of the ELS • Only a small portion of land is immediately adjacent to border crossings, but 100% of the lands are within 25km of a border crossing • There are several clusters with access to 400 series highways • Welland Canal offers a unique opportunity for certain types of heavy industries Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    17. 17. Key Findings of the ELS • Most lands do not have detailed plans • A third of the lands are serviced; A third are partially serviced; a third are un-serviced • Regional infrastructure upgrades are required in four locations • Regional servicing costs are substantial, estimated to be approximately $40 million Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    18. 18. Economic Gateway Strategy Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    19. 19. Incentive Programs 1) TIBG and DC Grant Programs Scoring System Matrix (total points) Total Score 0-7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Tax Increment Based Grant Level No Grant 40% 45% 50% 55% 60% 65% 70% 75% 80% 85% 90% 95% 100% 2) Development Charge Grant Program • Exceptional project is approved TIBG Program project that scores high on both economic performance and environmental/ design performance (14+ total points). • DC Grant is a one-time payment equal to % of DC paid in green shaded area with payment capped at $1.5 million. • Amount of DC Grant is not deducted from TIBG to be paid to applicant, i.e., no offset. Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    20. 20. Incentive Programs Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    21. 21. Summary/Conclusions A Two-Tier Region System • Single economic entity • Competition is external • Regional approach to funding major infrastructure • Regional approach to Vision, Strategy • Unique, diverse, but complementary Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    22. 22. Niagara Region Two Tiers – One Vision Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    23. 23. Thank you Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    24. 24. Back-pocket slides Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    25. 25. Road, Rail, Transit & Ports Integrated Vision Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit
    26. 26. Follow: @YXERegion #yxesummit