Opponents get break on Cobourg stormwater fees, but others sectors make up for it

Stormwater management flood

In 2010, a major flood occurred in the basements of the houses at the corner of Buchanan and George Streets, north of the VIA Rail station. It is an example of the need for stormwater management planning.


Cobourg council decided to proceed with changes to its stormwater management rates to satisfy residents’ concerns at its meeting on June 26.

After nearly an hour of debate, councillors voted five to two to reduce some rates that apply to vacant landowners, cemeteries, and farmers. However, the lost revenues will now be placed on commercial and industrial landowners. Landowners charged under the previous system will also receive a rebate. A report looking at the implications of the new system is expected to come back in September.

However, Mayor Lucas Cleveland warned that this may lead to complaints from the town’s commercial and industrial sectors.

The argument was over two similar proposals. According to a report from the consultants Watson and Associates Economists Ltd., apartments, condos, commercial and industrial lands will bear the brunt under what was termed Option B. High-density buildings will make up a majority of lost revenues by seeing its portion of the overall stormwater management fees doubling. Commercial and industrial properties will see slight increases in their portion by one or two percent. The exact impact on the landowners in terms of dollars is not determined. It will be part of a comprehensive report with all calculations expected in September.

Stormwater management chart

Stormwater Services Cost Share chart presented to council in a report from Watson and Associates.

Members of the public, along with representatives from the agricultural community and cemeteries made deputations before council’s debate.

The debate continued for nearly an hour to the point where the council voted to extend its meeting to make a decision.

Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty led off the debate with a motion to accept an alternative system characterized as being the fairest of options. This was referred to as Option C. It ensured the stormwater management fees were distributed so that each sector—commercial, industrial, institutional, agricultural, and residential—bore a more equitable share.

However, some councillors, led by Councillor Miriam Mutton, pushed back, arguing the need for a report detailing the actual fees being charged to each sector. She felt Option B was more intuitive and easier for people to understand. She also argued that commercial, industrial, apartments and condos tend to create more runoff, which means they should contribute more to stormwater fees. She says it makes sense for them to pay more.

Despite the mayor’s efforts to counter Mutton’s arguments, she was unmoved. At one point, Mutton said numbers can be manipulated to make any case, and she felt Option C was unfair.

The mayor took her to task.

“It’s not a manipulation of numbers,” he said. “We’ve gone to an economist/professional to get the numbers evaluated. So, it’s not a manipulation of numbers. Math is math is math.”

He said the numbers took several factors into account and were accurate.

At one point, the council almost decided to postpone a decision as councillors tried to get a costing on both options before making a final decision.

To avoid further delays, Beatty decided to change her original motion to Option B rather than C.

After the final vote, the mayor issued a warning.

“This council’s will has carried (the day), and I will always support this will of council. However, when I see a problem approaching and when I know of a problem that will come to this council because of this decision, I feel it’s my job to mention it that does not show a lack of support of this council or this direction. It is simply my job to provide as much information as I can, based on what I know from that. It has nothing to do with a lack of teamwork or lack of approach.”

He praised council for making a decision despite his own objections to Option B.

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