I went to the city’s Stormwater Charge Workshop at the Living Arts Centre on Wednesday. The city hosted two sessions, one at 2:30 pm and the second at 6:30 pm. This was an issue I was studying for a friend recently and it still piqued my interest, so I decided to attend to learn a few things. As this is an additional charge on residential properties, I was expecting obvious negative reactions at this type of meeting. I was not disappointed.
The meeting was organized around individual tables, where discussion would be coordinated by a designated person from the city or their associates. I sat down at a table moderated by Phil from the Credit Valley Conservation Authority, which made sense since the CVC’s mandate is about managing water in the Credit Valley watershed. He was very lively and engaging, and I shared with him my perspectives on this issue from an insurance standpoint, particularly about Overland Water Coverage. We were soon joined by Maria and Luis, an average homeowning couple, Ron and Mo, who I found out later were contractors, and a trio of men representing a low rise apartment condo corporation, Howard, Bruce and Fred.
(I swear I did not make up those names)
The table that assembled certainly did not lack in interesting conversation. Pretty much all the other participants were either very upset or “resigned to reality” as I put it. The main point I heard being raised at my table was why they didn’t just put this charge on the property tax. Ironically, if it was just put in the property tax, it would have been less transparent; at least with the stormwater charge people can see it. They won’t be happy seeing it, but they’ll see it. The other point of contention was that there was a general feeling around my table that the city did not sacrifice anything when it came to fixing this problem. To quote ‘Ron’, floods come from roads with bad drainage patterns and mandated hard surface driveways, instead of mud/gravel driveways that would have eased the absorption of water back into the ground.
Some interesting stats were provided at the beginning of the presentation. To replace the entire stormwater infrastructure network would take up to $2 billion. That’s 2,000 km of storm/trunk sewers, 1,000 storm drainage outlets, 67 stormwater ponds and other facilities, 51,000 catch basins, 250 km of ditches and swales. The cost formula will change from being based on property value (69% residential, and 31% non residential/commercial) to a formula based on the stormwater charge (60% non residential/commercial, 40% residential). This means, 80% of homeowners will end up paying an average of $8.33 per month, while that same percentage for non residential/multi residential properties will pay $230 per month.
I think at the end of the day, the city needs to communicate exactly what it is sacrificing in order to implement these preventative measures in order to manage large amounts of water in the future in order to reduce insurance claims/more property damage down the road. Likewise, the residents need to stop doing revisionist history, saying the city should or shouldn’t have done this or that 30-40 years ago. What’s done is done, let’s try to move forward.