Council Approves New Stormwater Fee

Cobourg Staff have recommended that the cost of stormwater management be handled differently.  At the same time, they have been developing an asset management plan that determined how much money will be required in future to provide good stormwater management.   At the CoW meeting on June 20, Council was asked to approve the change.  They were told that significant additional money would be required and that if there were no changes, the average taxpayer would pay $150 per year instead of the $37 currently budgeted (buried in their tax bill).  If the proposed stormwater fee were to be implemented, residential taxpayers would instead pay $75 – no longer in their tax bill but instead in a new bill – similar to the water and sewer bill.

That is, changing to a special stormwater fee would mean that residents would pay less overall with commercial properties paying the difference.  That’s less than they would have paid although more than currently.

Council had three choices:

  1. No change – let stormwater assets continue without being fixed and expect much larger costs in future to fix them (see below for report detailing costs)
  2. Fix the infrastructure but don’t implement stormwater fees based on usage (see article: More on separate Stormwater Tax) Average residential tax bill for stormwater would be $150 instead of the current $37 – that’s $113 higher.
  3. Fix the infrastructure and implement stormwater fees based on usage.  Tax bill would be lower than otherwise but residences would be billed and taxed such that they pay an average of $76 per year for stormwater instead of $150.  Staff recommended this approach.

Mayor John Henderson spoke about the current issue of affordability and said he would oppose the change – he seemed to think that the stormwater fee would increase costs to taxpayers – it does not, it actually reduces total costs to most taxpayers.  Charging a stormwater fee based on usage moves a lot of the cost to commercial properties with large paved areas.  Public Works Director Laurie Wills and Corporate Services Director Ian Davey explained the facts – with the admission by Laurie that it is “challenging to understand” – and John eventually joined other councillors in approving the change.

Implementation

Staff propose to add the stormwater fee to the Lakefront Utility Bill with the following rates:

Property Category 2022 Stormwater Rate per Hectare (ha) 2023 Stormwater Rate per Hectare (ha)
Commercial $250.20 $1,809.44
Institutional $208.50 $1,507.87
Industrial $222.40 $1,608.39
Agricultural/vacant $55.60 $402.10
Residential (low density)
– typically single detached houses
$125.10 $904.72
Residential (medium density)
– typically townhouses
$166.80 $1,206.29
Residential (high density)
– typically condominiums
$208.50 $1,507.87

Notes

  • The property type and size will be based on information provided to the Town by MPAC.
  • The rate is higher in 2023 because the money spent on stormwater infrastructure will be higher.
  • “A typical residential lot size is approximately 0.2 of an acre or 0.08ha. The average residential homeowner would pay $150 per year in their property taxes toward stormwater without the new dedicated stormwater charge in place. The stormwater charge would reduce the cost to that homeowner by nearly 50% ($76 versus $150) by applying a more equitable assessment.”
  • I calculated that my Townhouse would be billed $17.60 in 2023.

The next step is to approve a by-Law at the Regular Council meeting on June 27 which will take effect July 1, 2022.

One thing to note is that previous councils and Public Works Directors did not spend enough keeping the stormwater system in shape.  The reason it has now been noticed is that the Province mandated that Municipalities create “Asset Management Plans (AMP)” and a new one for stormwater shows what is required (download full report in Resources below).  The deadline to implement AMPs is July 2025 so the AMP for Stormwater for Cobourg is early.

Update – 28 June

When this issue came to a ratification vote at the Regular Council meeting on 27 June, it was passed without further debate.

Resources

Town Documents

Earlier posts on Cobourg News Blog

Download Report by Watson and Associates detailing future costs as required by the Asset Management Plan.

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24 Comments
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cornbread
25 June 2022 7:49 am

Cobourg Creek or Factory Creek (same creek) can take a lot more stormwater than it now gets. You can hardly notice the increase in the level of the creek when during a strong rain downfall.

Ursula
25 June 2022 12:41 am

So I will be penalized again for having a large, all permeable yard….all garden and grass except for a short single lane driveway. I already pay significant sewage fees for water that goes into my garden/lawn and I use 4 rain barrels to capture and hold water for drier periods. Unless you implement some means of differentiating between permeable and non permeable this is a money grab that does not motivate people to manage run-off.

Tim Bradley
Reply to  Ursula
26 June 2022 8:24 am

Well said. I’m also wondering if people who keep adding to their massive driveways have to pay an increase in storm water fees? Some streets in Cobourg look like a bloody parking lot with people ripping up gardens and lawns so they can park an extra car.

Ken Strauss
24 June 2022 11:02 pm

Residences on larger lots cover only a small proportion with impermeable surfaces. The rates approved by Council mean that Walmart will pay less per acre requiring storm water management than home owners! 

Wol1@ymail.com
24 June 2022 10:29 am

So called burried cost for service is reasonable. Service charged as user fee should not be levied if there is no drainage facility. Some of us should see a net decrease – or am I dreaming….

ben
Reply to  Wol1@ymail.com
25 June 2022 3:42 am

You certainly are – did we get a decrease when Council did the same thing with the sewage service years ago – NOoooooooo

Sandpiper
24 June 2022 10:23 am

I think this Town must be really deeply in debt
How do we ever get to the real $$ numbers ?
and the cost / expenses this town has created for it self and its residents .
I remember quite a few years ago reading a news article
about Detroit’s financial desperation and down fall
and Cobourg was on par with those numbers .

Kevin
23 June 2022 5:57 pm

Is this how user fees are to work? A service provided by the town, has been paid for by property taxes, will become more expensive so a new user fee is created. If the town is not able to manage storm water with current tax rates why would we expect the town to be able to mange it, or anything else, better with more fees? More user fees will require more office work to collect. Lakefront utilities will be hiring if storm water will be added to our utility bills. Maybe it will be added to our property taxes. If this user fee is a separate bill it will likely require even more government employees. How much of the fee will be used to cover the cost of the employees to collect the fee and for the manager to manage these employees?

Gerry Wentzell
Reply to  Kevin
25 June 2022 11:54 am

Money grab again for cobourg residents we pay enough in taxes, ie: now we pay for garbage tags when we pay taxes,another money grab, now my suggestion take a pay cut people, how does cobourg expect people , seniors to live here most already go out of town to shop….

Ken Strauss
23 June 2022 4:35 pm

If I understand John’s discussion, residents for whom Cobourg has never provided stormwater management — no sewers, no holding ponds and no ditches — will be expected to pay hundreds of dollars in additional taxes? How is that fair or reasonable?

Kevin
Reply to  John Draper
23 June 2022 6:06 pm

Yes, like parks, the library, town bus, property owners pay property taxes to pay for services if used by the owners or not. Will our property taxes actually be reduced? If so the reduction will be less than the new fee. Taxes plus fees will be going up.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  John Draper
23 June 2022 6:27 pm

But in the new scheme larger properties without town stormwater management will pay dearly for absolutely nothing. At least with a library or park it is possible that everyone might get a benefit. It is reasonable that everyone pay for critical town infrastructure but this is a tax grab disguised as a user fee.

Frank
Reply to  Ken Strauss
24 June 2022 5:44 pm

My single detached house will cost an estimated $362 in 2023. No tax reductions in the foreseeable future, just ridiculous ways being looked at to take more to cover these poorly managed systems.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Ken Strauss
24 June 2022 10:16 am

As well as they are providing a service by acting as retention areas for the town to assist in
absorption and slow disbursement of storm waters , and when they should be developed the town insists that storm water ponding and underground holding tanks be installed by the land owner at their expense . Many times they loose valuable development area as a result .

JimT
23 June 2022 2:54 pm

Would someone please explain just what about our existing storm water infrastructure needs to be fixed? We’ve experienced heavy downpours for as long as I can remember and seem to have coped OK so far.

Is all of this just the Province imposing its authority on us once more with arbitrary “mandates” apparently designed to show us all who’s the ultimate boss?

MiriamM
Reply to  JimT
24 June 2022 11:02 am

From my perspective in understanding the big picture, the way things used to be done focused on collecting run-off water, directing it into underground pipes as quickly as possible and then making sure the water moved efficiently downstream, without obstruction, to natural drainage systems like rivers and lakes. With intensification of development e.g. more building (house) on smaller lot, there is more hard impermeable surfaces like roofs and paved area like driveways and parking lots. This means more water moves more quickly. It gathers and moves downstream, with more risk in comprising downstream properties and infrastructure as well as the stream banks. In addition, such water needs to be clean before it meets natural systems. It is very expensive to keep building bigger and bigger pipes, and that type of system also has huge repair and replacement costs years ahead. Even underground tanks with soil infiltration of held water has some maintenance needs periodically. I believe this is also a reason why many municipalities are implementing green development standards. This includes storm ponds built as part of development and later taken over by the Town as part of infrastructure. Ideally, such natural looking and functional water control systems would become part of the public parkland system. Technically, with development the amount, rate and quality of the drainage water leaving the site after everything is built needs to be as a close as possible to the water that left the site before development. This helps ensure downstream properties are not unfairly burdened. As illustration in Cobourg, there will be more than 1700 new units to be built in the north-east sector of town. Note all the prep work underway. Then, on a map, follow the natural drainage course southwards. There is a lot of already built up residential area south of… Read more »

Bryan
Reply to  MiriamM
24 June 2022 12:56 pm

Miriam,

If a new development adds “load” to an existing system/facility, shouldn’t the developer pay to upgrade the old system/facility to handle the additional “new development load”?
Isn’t that what “development charges” are for in part?

MiriamM
Reply to  Bryan
24 June 2022 9:10 pm

Yes, I believe so. But, for the supply and construction of the infrastructure and not the on-going maintenance. The difference now seems to be itemizing timely and on-going maintenance which can help lengthen the viable lifespan of new and upgraded infrastructure. Have we been paying for this aspect already in our taxes? Likely, at least in part. The old adage applies … more development does not reduce taxes. It costs more to maintain everything to the standards to which we have become accustomed. The other aspect to the stormwater fee is identifying ways to reduce costs to the taxpayer.

Mr Bigley
Reply to  MiriamM
24 June 2022 9:38 pm

sage advice Mariam – but most readers l would bet are a tetch confused – maybe if you run for council again – some explanations such as yours will be helpful – or maybe as Cobourg loves to do – hires consultants – they will “show us the way” from away”

MiriamM
Reply to  Bryan
24 June 2022 9:33 pm

p.s. there needs to be a concurrent process to determine stormwater credits or reductions for a residential property owner (taxpayer). It appears the Town has pushed that aspect off to some time in the future for now (see above FAQ bulletin). Needs to be part of the fee process from the beginning. For example, if the grading of your yard (this can happen on larger lots especially) incorporates infiltration swales, then credit is warranted for reducing the amount of run-off into the system. Using MPAC land area alone to determine the fee is questionable. There is a big difference between a big grassy yard and a paved parking lot with regard to infiltration rates on site.
My edit to clarify, the Watson report refers to ‘run-off coefficient’ in their recommendation section and this should be able to address surface type, how permeable (or not) for drainage to infiltrate into the ground on the site.

Last edited 8 days ago by MiriamM
Kevin
Reply to  MiriamM
25 June 2022 8:07 am

Yes, grassy areas can help reduce run-off. Sidewalks and roads contribute to the problem. The design of recent road rebuilds could have reduced the hard surfaces and had more green space. James St. (Division to College) and Mathew St. are a couple of examples. One side walk would have met the transportation master plan requirements, reduced costs and reduced run-off. Trees can make a big difference to help reduce run-off. Too much hard surface reduces the space for trees.

Ahewson
Reply to  Kevin
26 June 2022 6:50 am

Great point on the James St and Matthew St rebuilds. Both are just awful. Too much hard surface without any kind of break up. They’re unpleasant to look at and a nightmare of surface runoff. I’m usually pro sidewalks on both sides of the street, but in those cases they should’ve reduced to one and planted trees in the opposite side.

Rob
Reply to  Ahewson
27 June 2022 9:17 am

Very strange to not plant trees at every opportunity given the Climate Emergency town representatives officially declared several years ago. There is a difference between simply declaring an emergency and acting on climate concerns.