If you build it they will come, but a closed-door meeting today may be the first step in determining who will pay for pricey infrastructure, municipal leaders say.

The city will meet with developers and homebuilders at a special symposium at the Telus Convention Centre in an effort to hash out who foots the bill for new fire halls, buses and roads in new communities.

Ald. Ric McIver said the summit, which will include members of the Calgary Homebuilders Association (CHBA) and the Urban Development Institute, is vital for the city’s growth and shouldn’t be taking place out of the public eye.

“When you’re talking about something that could have such a profound effect on the public and the way we pay for infrastructure in the future, it should be more of an open dialogue,” he said.

“It always comes down to who’s going to pay for it and at the end of the day that will be either the taxpayer or the taxpayer who’s buying a new home.”

In 2006, city council approved a hefty development levy, requiring both residential and commercial developers to fork over $40,000 per hectare to help defray the heavy price tag for critical infrastructure.

Dennis Little, president of the CHBA, said the meeting was being held in private to ensure a frank dialogue, but said the industry feels it is already paying its fair share for city infrastructure.

“This is not negotiating a development agreement, it’s a private meeting between the city and industry so we can be forthright with one another,” he said.

Ald. Brian Pincott said the real challenge facing the city has more to do with covering operating costs; paying for firefighters and bus drivers, he said, cuts deeper into the city budget than bricks and mortar.

“For me it’s time to think about the way we grow the city so we can make sure these operating costs are manageable,” he said.