Chamber raises concerns about stormwater rate proposal

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The St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce has raised concerns about proposed changes to the city stormwater rate model.

City staff are currently developing an implementation plan that would put more of the tax burden for stormwater utility rates on commercial and industrial properties. The proposed model would take into account an “imperviousness factor” related to water-resistant surfaces like pavement that funnel runoff into the storm system.

While it would reduce fees for most residents and businesses, some would see their fees skyrocket. Thirty-one commercial properties and 23 industrial properties – more than six per cent of such properties city-wide – would be hit with increases of more than $10,000 up from the current flat annual rate of $571.

Jennifer McCurdy, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said the proposal is alarming for enterprises that are already dealing with proposed federal tax increases as well as increases in provincial minimum wages.

“We’re really concerned for our businesses,” she said.

“It’s really disconcerting that this is happening. On top of all that, a lot of them have seen a decline in business with the recession and what’s been happening in the province. This is just one more thing they’re going to have to contend with.”

In total, 371 commercial and industrial customers representing 43.1 per cent of such customers in St. Albert would be negatively impacted by the proposed changes. Increases would range from $500 to somewhere over $10,000.

Diane McMordie, finance director for the city, declined to say how much more than $10,000 some customers would pay. She said when city staff come back with their implementation plan in mid-2018, they will also be coming back with ideas on how to address the outliers.

“What our data is telling us it would be right now is likely not where we’ll end up,” she said.

“We’re going to look at some alternatives to address some of the major issues.”

McMordie confirmed the rate change would hit the city as well.

Currently, the municipality pays stormwater fees just as commercial and industrial customers do. Under the new model, St. Albert would pay far more for its properties.

Roadways and parks are not included.

The city first began looking to change its rate model in 2014 after the city received questions from residents and businesses on the fairness of the current system.

Initially, city staff looked at changing the flat rate system to one that looks at property size, and in October 2015 told city councillors the residential sector pays $0.36 per square metre each year compared to nonresidential customers who pay $0.08.

Council documents from Sept. 12, 2016 show city staff told the standing committee of the whole a new annual cost range based on property size would mean commercial customers would pay between $32 and $43,714 and industrial customers would pay between $21 and $18,645.

Under that system, all residential stacked units such as apartments would pay less, while residential customers would pay between $107 and $2,463.

McMordie said while staff originally looked at a system purely based on property size, they now have access to imperviousness data at a property level.

“Now that we’ve got access to this property level imperviousness, we’ve layered that over top,” she said.

“(The model) is still based on property size but then there’s an imperviousness factor applied to that.”

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