The cost of rain in Victoria

A new stormwater utility being considered by the city could see homeowners pay more, business less

Stormwater management is a concept few people think much about.

Unlike the sewer utility, for which residents receive a separate bill based on how much water they use, Victoria’s stormwater system gets paid out of general property taxes.

That means people pay based on the assessed value of their property, rather than the amount of rain water channelled from their lot through the city’s aging storm pipes.

Now, Victoria is looking to follow the lead set by Edmonton, Portland, Kitchener and Waterloo, which bill property owners based on how big a burden their lots place on the city’s stormwater system.

At its heart, the change would give people an incentive to improve their property’s ability to absorb rain water, putting less pressure on the storm drains during heavy rains.

The new utility is still in the early stages. While city council has approved the idea in principle, the public works department plans to go to the public for input.

Options for incentives are one part of the plan up for debate. For instance, houses with large trees, rain gardens or sizable cisterns for rain storage could be offered rebates.

A more contentious part of the plan is how to divvy up the cost of the new stormwater utility.

Staff have proposed a model deemed more fair and equitable than the current one. It would see property owners billed based largely on the amount of impermeable surface on their lot, such as roofs and paved areas.

The shift will mean some classes of properties could see big changes to the amount owners pay for stormwater service.

For instance, tax-exempt properties such as churches will be billed for the new utility, whereas currently they contribute nothing to the stormwater system.

Low-density residential homes would pay $62 more and multi-family dwellings would pay $215 more per building.

Other classes of properties will see their bills decrease.

Commercial and industrial properties would expect an average decrease of $1,148.

The shift of the cost from business to residential worried Mayor Dean Fortin.

“Equity is as much the ability to pay as it is everybody pays the same,” Fortin said at last week’s governance and priority’s meeting. Businesses can write off their expenses, whereas residents can’t, he added.

Council agreed on one change to the suggested model which would shift more of the cost back onto property taxes, and hence increase the share businesses pay.

City roads should be included in the cost-sharing formula, argued Coun. Geoff Young.

When calculating the costs of building roads, people often fail to include the cost of managing rain runoff, he said. “If you forget the roads, it throws all the other calculations off,” he said. “You should include them.”

Coun. Lisa Helps had another concern.

The proposed utility would be billed to property owners only, giving renters no incentive to make changes, she said.

“It is true that 60 per cent of our residents are renters,” said Helps, a renter herself. “If we want this to work, we need to target renters in some way.”

Council tabled a motion to endorse the proposed model until receipt of further information. Staff aim to implement the new utility by January 2014.

rholmen@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kennedy Nikel, applied marine biologist at Cascadia Seaweed, here seen in late September, shows off bull kelp (in her left hand) and rock weed. The company is spear-heading an annual seaweed festival scheduled for May 13-21, 2021, with Sidney council have signed off in principle. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Cascadia hopes to see Sidney host seaweed festival in May 2021

Council supports the idea in principle following a presentation by Cascadia Seaweed

Trevor Davis, base manager of the Western Canada Marine Response Corporation in Sidney, stands in front of the Hecate Sentinal, an oil skimming vessel based at Sidney’s Van Isle Marina. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Oil spill response base taking shape on Saanich Peninsula

Enhanced base with elements in North Saanich and Sidney to be fully operational in fall 2022

The O’Meara family – (left to right) Mari, Max, Adam and Rei – spent Saturday afternoon picking out the perfect tree. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Santa’s Forest tree sale in Saanich implements one-way perusing, curbside pick up

Christmas tree, wreath sales in Braefoot Park through Dec. 24

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read