City may pay more for water
One item left outstanding in off-site levies debate
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 06:00 am
After almost 18 months of study, research and work, St. Albert’s new off-site levy bylaw is ready for writing, with one notable exception.
Council on Monday night endorsed seven of eight recommendations staff put forward to prepare the new bylaw. The only item council didn’t immediately pass was a recommendation on how to pay for water infrastructure that could cost the city millions of dollars.
“We want to make sure as we go forward we fully understand (this item),” said Coun. Wes Brodhead, who moved the recommendation on water infrastructure be put over until council can meet as committee of the whole to study it further. Such committee meetings allow councillors to discuss topics more informally.
Off-site levies are payments St. Albert collects from developers that help the city pay for new or expanded water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure, as well as roads and land costs. Because those developers tie their infrastructure into the city’s pipes, the city requires them to pay part or all of the cost for new and upgraded infrastructure.
The city launched a review of its levies last year in the hopes of bringing more development to St. Albert. It wants to balance the needs of developers with the principle that growth should pay for itself.
But when it comes to water infrastructure, exactly who should pay for what is less clear. The city currently requires developers to pay 95 per cent of the cost of major projects such as reservoirs and pumphouses, while the city pays only five per cent. When it comes to main transmission lines, the split is 75 per cent to developers and 25 per cent for the city.
The administration recommends the city pay 25 per cent of all water-related projects. The Urban Development Institute initially wanted St. Albert to pay 100 per cent of water infrastructure costs, but that was rejected by council.
“In reality when we looked at our infrastructure mix, we do need to appropriately share these costs because part of the (project) will benefit existing residents,” said Todd Wyman, a member of the city’s growth initiative team who has been leading the levies review.
Even if St. Albert never added another new resident to its population ever again, Wyman said the city would still need to build these same reservoirs and pumphouses to improve services to existing residents.
“By building (a reservoir), it actually supports some of the existing residents in that area,” said Wyman. “It’s a network. It’s all interconnected. What we’re saying is, because it’s networked, the existing residents benefit from that.”
But city council wants to see the numbers driving administration’s recommendation on increasing its costs for water infrastructure, which is why it called for the committee of the whole meeting.
“We need to know what that translates to on the water rate,” said Mayor Nolan Crouse. “Please translate this into what it means for the water bill.”
Crouse said the committee of the whole meeting should be scheduled soon. The bylaw will still likely be ready for its scheduled first reading of April 22.
The other recommendations passed predominantly revolve around ensuring the first developer into an area is reimbursed a portion of its infrastructure costs from subsequent developers that link their pipes to theirs. That includes the city, which often builds roads at its own expense to link developments with the city road network.
The city will next hold a workshop with developers and landowners to explain its new levy system.