Water, Sewer & Stormwater Rate Structure Review

As many of you may have noticed last week, the home at 5514 Manotick Main Street, known locally as the Falls House, was torn down. This was done so after much effort to avoid that exact scenario. Unfortunately, the home did not meet the criteria for heritage designation and the condition was deteriorating. Please visit rideaugoulbourn.ca/fallshouse for the full story on the property as well as next steps. On that page, you will also find panoramic pictures of each room in the house as well as a video tour of the home that I took a couple of weeks ago. This will give you the full picture of the home and all of the information that led us to this point.

Stormwater Charge

In recent weeks, I have spoken at length about the stormwater charge that was approved by the Environment Committee last week. It has been a difficult issue to deal with for everyone impacted. I predicted as much in May 2015 when the item first came to our attention and again when the public consultation kicked off in March of this year. My main focus the entire time has been the facts. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of misinformation out there on this subject. If you still have questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact me. We also have information available on this website (click here) that provides all of the background.

There are, however, just a few points that I want to reiterate as they keep coming up in emails that I have been receiving and comments on various radio shows and whatnot. First, this has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you flush your toilet into a sewer system or a septic system. Stormwater is completely unrelated from sewerage services. They were in separate budgets prior to amalgamation and that never should have changed. As I mentioned last week, Council made that decision to put them together in 2001 and it was the wrong one.

I have also heard comments that this is a “tax grab” to increase revenues for the City. I completely understand that point because, for many of us in the rural area, we will begin to pay an extra charge on our tax bill. However, as I have also mentioned previously, those who are already paying for stormwater on their sewer bill will see a modest reduction in their bill.  Therefore, these two changes will offset each other. The City spends approximately $42M city-wide on stormwater maintenance and that budget will remain at that number. With the two offsetting numbers, there will be no increase in revenues as a result of the stormwater charge.

The final clarification I wanted to make is in response to comments that the revenue from this charge will just go toward urban projects that will not benefit the rural area. It will not. As mentioned above, the amount collected is just being shifted from water and sewer ratepayers to taxpayers. All fees collected in the rural area will go toward maintenance in the rural area.  In fact, the City spends $8M annually in the rural area and the new fee will collect $2M. None of your stormwater taxes will service anyone but rural residents.

I hope this helps provide further clarity. As always, I am available to chat about this further.  We also spend time at each of our town hall meetings discussing this very issue. Our Manotick meeting is on November 15th and our Kars meeting is on November 23rd.

Community Dancing in Manotick

If you are interested in a fun, interactive session of dance, laughter & music, come to the Manotick United Church on Friday, November 4th and join the Ever Hopeful Stringband and caller Pippa Hall for a family-friendly, alcohol-free evening of community dancing, including circles, squares and contras. Each dance is taught and the whole family is invited. The event runs from 7:00pm until 9:30pm and begins with simple dances, followed by dances that build on skills as the evening progresses. The cost to attend is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 12-18 and children under 12 are free.  There is, however, a family maximum charge of $20. For more information call 613-692-4576 or visit http://dance.manotick.net.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491.

Coach Houses and Land Evaluation and Area Review (LEAR)

To begin this week, I just wanted to correct a comment that I have made in recent weeks.  When providing background on the stormwater issue, I had said that Council made the decision to shift all stormwater costs to the water and sewer rate in April of 2001.  In fact, it was the Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee that dealt with the issue in April. They ended up deferring the matter to their July 3rd meeting and Council did not approve it until their July 11th meeting.

The report was titled “Financing Methods – Funding City Services” and included two key points that led us to the situation we are in today.  One was that the General Tax Levy “include all services formerly included in the general levies of the area municipalities except…stormwater management.” Further along in the same motion, the Committee recommended to Council that “the stormwater management and sanitary sewerage programs be totally funded from sewer surcharges.” This passed at Committee and again at Council.  Interestingly enough, Councillor Janet Stavinga actually voted against the matter at Committee.  We are only dealing with this matter today because the rest of Council did not follow her lead. If you would be interested in reading the minutes or the report for yourself, please contact my office.

For those of you who have attended one of our Mid-Term Town Hall meetings, you will know that we discuss the stormwater issue there.  Although this item has been discussed at Committee this past Tuesday, I will continue to focus on the matter at future town hall meetings. With meetings in North Gower and Munster having occurred earlier this week, our next Town Hall meeting will take place at the Christ Church in Ashton on Wednesday, November 1st followed by our rural Stittsville meeting at the Goulbourn Town Hall on Monday, November 7th.  Both meetings will begin at 7:00pm.

Coach Houses

The report on Coach Houses came before the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee on Thursday, October 6th.  Some of the recommendations contained in the report stemmed from consultations in the urban area but the ensuing recommendation had a city-wide impact.  As a result, ARAC voted to alter a recommended decrease in accessory building heights because this was not a prevalent issue in the rural area.  Further, we discussed the minimum lot size for a coach house.  The recommendation calls for a minimum lot size of 2 acres on private services.  This is something that we are reviewing and, at the very least, members of ARAC will be pursuing a decrease in that minimum to 1 acre at the October 26th meeting of Council.

The main point, however, is that the City has developed a process that will permit the addition of coach houses in the rural area and across the city.  All that is left to work out are some fine details surrounding lot sizes and permitting.  I will keep you updated on the matter in future columns.

Land Evaluation and Area Review (LEAR)

In November, the updated report on LEAR will come to both the Planning Committee and the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.  As Chair of the LEAR Working Group, this is something we have been working on for the better part of four years.  The most interested parties in this endeavour would be landowners in or adjacent to lands already designated as Agricultural Resource Area on Schedule A of the City’s Official Plan.

The Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton identified the existing Agricultural Resource Area in 1997 using a Land Evaluation and Area Review (LEAR) system. Key components of the LEAR system are soil capability for agriculture, land use and parcel size. New soils mapping and changes in land use and the size and nature of farms in the city over the last 20 years warrant re-examining and updating the existing LEAR system.  The Ontario Municipal Board has also directed the City to complete this update. 

The LEAR Working Group is finalizing the changes to the LEAR system. Recommendations on possible changes, if any, to the Agricultural Resource Area will be made and notice of changes will be sent to all affected land owners. A draft Official Plan Amendment will be advertised, circulated and presented to the Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Planning Committees in November 2016 and Council in December 2016/ January 2017.

If you have any questions on this review, please contact Bruce Finlay, Planner, at 613-580-2424, ext. 21850 or by e-mail at planning@ottawa.ca.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491.

Doors Open Ottawa is back June 4-5!

When I last spoke of the Water, Wasterwater & Stormwater Review, I mentioned that the report and any recommendations were to be delayed to give staff more time to assess all of the comments from the eight consultation sessions.  As you may have already heard in recent days, the item is now scheduled to come back in September.  I will keep you updated on any developments over the next few months.

Photo Radar

In my March 23rd column, I summarized some of the opinions surrounding the issue of photo radar and its use on Ottawa streets.  Originally scheduled to go to Council in March, it was referred, for a more fulsome discussion, to Transportation Committee, which occurred earlier this month.  Leading up to this committee meeting, many of the comments heard city-wide aligned with the comments that I had heard in Rideau-Goulbourn.  As a result, a substitute motion was brought forward that, instead of asking for a blanket approval for the use of photo radar, asks the Province to allow the City of Ottawa to run a pilot project for photo radar exclusively in school zones.

Many arguments were heard for and against the use of photo radar.  Some wanted to see it used anywhere and everywhere.  Some wanted it to be used as a revenue tool.  Others fundamentally opposed its use. The motion to test it in school zones was a compromise motion that garnered the support of the Committee and, ultimately, Council.  At the Council meeting, I seconded a motion put forward by Councillor Stephen Blais that also seeks to have all School Zones double as Community Safety Zones.

There is no real timing for next steps on this issue.  The request goes to the Province and they will determine whether or not to allow the use of photo radar.  If yes, the City of Ottawa will then further consider the factors of implementation, such as the limit to set it at and the awareness of the zones.

ARAC

The June meeting of the Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee is being held on Friday, June 3rd as the Thursday is the date of the Rural Expo and Food Aid Day.  The time and location are the same as always; 10:00am at Ben Franklin Place.  Agenda items include:

  • Water Environment Strategy: Phase 2
  • Zoning By-Law Amendments: 1613 Devine Road, 3940 Dunning Road

The Zoning By-Law Amendments are both for surplus farm severances.  As you can see the agenda is quite light.  The Water Environment Strategy was presented to Environment Committee last week but is mandated to be reviewed by ARAC as well.

Doors Open Ottawa

On June 4th and 5th, the public will have access, at no charge, to more than 120 buildings around the Ottawa region. Doors Open Ottawa offers something for everyone, from municipal facilities and government buildings to private businesses, artists’ studios and places of worship, to embassies and high commissions of countries from across the globe.

Shopify hosted the launch event at its Elgin Street headquarters and will be among the 19 new locations participating in the Doors Open Ottawa weekend in June. For the fifth consecutive year, there will be a free accessible OC Transpo shuttle bus sponsored by the Ottawa Citizen. More than 50 participating buildings can be accessed from the shuttle loop, giving everyone a wide choice of amazing facilities that can be reached quickly without a vehicle.

For a full list of participating buildings, including which ones are accessible, and information about the shuttle bus, visit ottawa.ca/doorsopen.  Rideau-Goulbourn buildings include Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind National Headquarters, Watson’s Mill, Dickinson House, Ayres Building (Home to ROSSS), Rideau Township Archives and the Goulbourn Museum.

Ottawa4FortMac

Ottawa Senators player Chris Phillips and Mayor Jim Watson invite you to support the Canadian Red Cross’ emergency appeal and the United Way’s relief efforts directed towards helping the residents of Fort McMurray rebuild their lives and their community, by attending their fundraising event: Ottawa4FortMac.

The fundraiser will feature an evening of live country music, a pizza dinner catered by local pizzerias, local craft beer sampling and western-themed activities such as wild mechanical bull rides. Ottawa-born Country sensation Kira Isabella, Ottawa Country group River Town Saints and Country brother duo The Abrams will keep you dancing all night long.

Ottawa4FortMac will happen on June 8, 6:30pm until 10:00pm at Lansdowne Park in the Aberdeen Pavilion, 1000 Exhibition Way.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491.

Background on the Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Rate Structure Review

Find out more on  Ottawa.ca .

Find out more on Ottawa.ca.

The City is holding public consultations on the Water, Wastewater and Stormwater Rate Structure Review. I first mentioned this review in May 2015 and it has now evolved to the point where staff are bringing options forward for discussion. You have likely heard a lot about this over the last week from a variety of sources. The history on this file is important to remember as we proceed into a public comment period.

I want to clarify that this issue has nothing to do with whether or not someone is on a well and septic system. Nobody is proposing a tax on those two things.

This is strictly about stormwater runoff which impacts every property in one way or another.  Some properties contribute more to the need for stormwater management than others. The review also looks at this factor and it is incorporated into the options which will be presented at the public consultation.

The background is that prior to amalgamation, Rideau and Goulbourn Townships assessed all stormwater drainage on the regular tax bill. Therefore, every single property owner paid for stormwater management on their tax bill. For reasons unbeknownst to any logical person, the transition board overseeing the amalgamation process chose to shift all stormwater costs from the tax bill to the sewer and water rate bill.

Since that time, all stormwater works in the rural area have been assessed only to those who pay water and sewer bills. This means that residents in Munster, Richmond and Hillside Gardens pay for something that residents in North Gower and Ashton do not.

The upcoming meeting will be an opportunity for residents to see how the City is proposing to address the issue. The big concern is how the City can ensure that balance is created on this issue without the negative optics of creating a new tax.

The crux of the situation is that the City spends $8M per year on stormwater works in the rural area and only those who receive a water and sewer bill pay for it. Like I said, prior to amalgamation, we all paid for it.

For example, the City is replacing the entire stormwater infrastructure in Kars this year to the tune of $2M. As it happens, through no fault of their own, nobody in Kars will actually pay directly for those works. However, the payments that residents in Munster who are on municipal services make will go toward the work in Kars.

One misconception that should be mentioned is the thought that this charge is only being discussed because the City needs money.

I will admit that the rate structure review on water and sewer bills has everything to do with the fact that the City is losing money each year on the delivery of that service. 

However, the stormwater management issue is removed from that and is firmly focused on the principle that a property owner pays for the services they receive. This review looks into how could that work and how properties would be assessed.

I'm happy to discuss this further so please feel free to contact me directly if you have additional questions.

My only goal at this point is to get all of the facts out there and hope that the consultations are well attended. The consultations will be your opportunity to hear directly from City staff. We've made sure that each rural ward has a consultation meeting. Throughout the 19 urban wards, there will only be 3 meetings but we'll have four in the rural area. 

The Rideau-Goulbourn meeting will be held on April 5th, beginning at 7:00pm, at the Alfred Taylor Recreation Centre in North Gower. 

This location was chosen because it is somewhat central to the ward and is the largest and most accessible space available. I encourage everyone to attend. Strong attendance at these meetings sends a strong message.

If you would like to read more about this issue, please visit Ottawa.ca.

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If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491.