Group says beach development a burden to Hudson’s books
By Nick Zacharias
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/NICK ZACHARIAS
While the town of Hudson has not shared any study into what impact the planned Sandy Beach development will have on the town’s finances, a private, volunteer study concludes that proceeding with adding roughly 600 new citizens in the dense project would create an annual deficit, costing the town well over a quarter million dollars every year even after increased tax revenue is accounted for.
While there is growing opposition to the proposed 214-unit development planned for the currently forested land surrounding Sandy Beach in Hudson, with objections ranging from ecological destruction to traffic safety and infrastructure burden to changing the face of the town, those in favour often site an increase in municipal tax revenue as justification or at least compensation for the project, something which would give the town more leeway to address other issues like repairing crumbling roads or adding new infrastructure. The town has not shared any study showing what the predicted impact to town revenue would be from the development, but an independent group has, and their findings show that rather than create a windfall of tax money for Hudson, the increased expenses from the proposed development would put the town in the hole by $269,000 or more per year going forward.
No financial analysis by the town
Mark Gray, Hudson resident and organizer of the Sandy Beach Wetland Protection Group, had a conversation with District 5 Councillor Jim Duff in late March of this year when the group had set up a booth in the Hudson IGA Plaza to discuss their concerns about the development with the public.
“I asked him,” said Gray, “if the town had done an analysis of how the development would impact the town financially, and he said, ‘No, we’re not required to.’” When pushed to know if the town had plans to look at the impact of the development on annual revenues for the town, Duff said they were not going to do that.
The independent study, conducted voluntarily by private residents with subject matter expertise, points out that the Loi sur les cités et villes states that for projects of this size a town must create a plan showing objectives, associated expenditures, and the mode of financing these expenses. In the absence of a publicly shared plan, this group decided to conduct their own.
Long-time resident Benoît Blais, who contributed decades of experience to the study as a Senior Director in the banking industry, as well as having a history in financial consulting and auditing, said that if anything the financial estimates were extremely conservative. “We looked at all the information available to us. We did not even include the likely increase in the number of town employees that would come from adding that many houses for example; if anything, our estimates on the extra cost to the town are very low.”
What the estimates show, in broad terms, is an injection of $854,480 in additional annual tax revenue. Projected annual costs, when the study’s authors looked at capital expenditures for agreed upon additions like lifeguard stations, public washrooms, road rebuilding and sewer connection, as well as incremental net operating expenses and direct un-controllable expenses (such as increased SQ policing), were projected to be $1,123,714 – in other words predicting a net annual loss to the town of $269,234.
The study’s authors calculate that the one-time windfall gain of approximately $1.2 million from the welcome tax will be offset by the extra annual expenses in under five years, leaving the town with an ongoing deficit of over a quarter million dollars per year.
THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/NICK ZACHARIAS
An independent group has released its own cost analysis of the contentious Sandy Beach development project that would have the first row of 94 townhouses plainly visible 20 metres from the servitude to the beach – a reality demonstrated with a mock-up (on the left) placed on the spot at the waterfront during a demonstration held in April, 2021.
Show us we’re wrong
Another of the study’s authors, Jacques Bourgeois, who has decades of experience in strategic and financial advising and joined Blais and former Hudson Town Engineer and Director of Public Works Trail Grubert in the study, said he came into it with an open mind.
“I came in not as a member of the wetlands group but as a third party,” said Bourgeois. “I wanted to see if the revenue is really positive, as so many assume, or not. And sadly, it’s clear that it’s not. We’re very confident in these numbers.” He says if the town continues to move forward with approving the development it behooves them to address the shortfall and be transparent about how they intend to combat it, whether that’s through cutting expenses elsewhere in the budget or increasing municipal tax rates.