Colwood city council has decided to buy into the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) proposed new sewer treatment plant for half of the capacity originally anticipated.
On July 23, council passed a motion to request enough capacity to serve a population of 11,500 sewer users, based on a projected population growth of about two per cent per year until 2020.
The CRD had estimated Colwood to have a population growth rate of 3.65 per cent per year. Michael Baxter, Colwood’s director of engineering, has run his own numbers and believes the two per cent to be a more realistic estimate.
Under that formula, the estimated increase to property taxes is $27 for a $400,000 property. If Colwood were to buy in at the CRD’s capacity estimation the increase would be closer to $193 for the same property.
Colwood, and all other municipalities involved, must decide how much capacity in the proposed treatment plant it requires. The hitch is that Colwood, a city growing in size, must buy in now for its anticipated growth for the next 20 years.
With the two per cent guideline the population is expected to increase by just over 2,700 residents by 2020. A further 800 residents are expected to move from septic systems to sewer by that time as well.
Coun. Shari Lukens, along with Coun. Teresa Harvey, voted against the motion, saying Colwood needs more exact information on price before making a decision. The costs provided by the CRD are estimates and if the project runs over budget that will fall back onto the taxpayer’s shoulders.
“It’s going to be probably the biggest decision we as a council make in our term, and I’ve never taken out a mortgage without knowing all of my costs,” Lukens said. “I think they need to hear that Colwood’s situation is very different than any of the others … that are participating in this.”
The next step, though less urgent, is to figure out who is going to pay for the capacity.
“The people who are on sewer feel the costs should be borne by everybody and the people who are on septic feel the costs should be borne by the sewer users,” Coun. Judith Cullington said. “They are certainly very good arguments on both sides. In fact, neither of them, in my opinion, is fair. But we have to find a way of moving forward on this.”
Sometime after the summer, Colwood plans to have a transportation and infrastructure committee meeting and will be asking for a CRD member to take part to answer questions from the public.