February 11, 2011




Bill Cleverley
Times Colonist
February 10, 2011
Click here to send letter to editor
 - Click here to go to Victoria's Stormwater report

Creating a new utility to manage Victoria's $362-million stormwater sewer system would not be the start of a new tax but rather a tax shift, say city officials.

"We recognize that it is all one taxpayer. Whether you get one, two or three bills, at the end of the month you sit down and say here's my bills that come from the city," said Mayor Dean Fortin.

The idea of creating a new stormwater utility, like a water or sewer utility, will be discussed at the city's environment and infrastructure committee today.

"I think the advantage for the city is twofold: one, the income you get from it you directly relate it back so it doesn't just go into property taxes. The income that comes in from it goes directly to that resource," Fortin said.

"Secondly, you as an individual can say, 'My payment is going into this and I can reduce or increase the amount of cost by myself.' "

Fortin said there are a variety of ways, ranging from using rain barrels to decreasing the amount of impervious surfaces on a lot that a property owner might use, to lower stormwater costs.

"There's many things you can do quite easily to lower your impact. So part of what we're looking at is what is your square footage in terms of impervious surfaces. Are you capturing [rain water]? There are opportunities for people to lower their costs."

The new utility would be "user-pay," a more fair and flexible way to finance the burgeoning costs of the city's geriatric stormwater system, say city staff.

"Those moneys that go in there are no longer on your general taxes, they're on your utility bill. So people will know exactly what they end up paying for," said city director of sustainability Kim Fowler. "It gives us much more administrative authority to govern incentives and provide different rates for better services. So if people use a lot they're going to pay more. If someone puts in some sustainable systems and actually reduce that significantly, as we've done on Dockside Green, then we can give them a lower utility rate."

staff report says creating a stormwater utility would not only create a dedicated source of funding for rehabilitation and replacement but also provide the ability to encourage environmentally friendly stormwater projects, greater potential to tap into green infrastructure grants and the ability to set rates to build up reserves.

Most municipalities rely on property taxes to fund stormwater-related items but Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Richmond Hill, and Hamilton are looking at land drainage or stormwater utilities, says the report.

Like Victoria's aging sanitary sewers, the city's stormwater sewers need a lot of work.

If the concept is approved by council, a public engagement process would be launched. The earliest the new utility would be launched would be January 2013.



Update: Stormwater utility idea supported by city committee
Times Colonist
February 11, 2011

The idea of Victoria creating a new stormwater utility, like a water or sewer utility, was endorsed by Victoria's environment and infrastructure committee Thursday.

City staff say removing stormwater management off property taxes and into a separate utility would be more fair and flexible.

Setting up the utility would not only create a dedicated source of funding for rehabilitation and replacement, but also provide the ability to encourage environmentally friendly stormwater projects, greater potential to tap into green infrastructure grants and the ability to set rates to build up reserves.

If the concept is approved by council, a public engagement and education process will begin.



VICTORIA TOPS LIST OF MOST-SUSTAINABLE SMALL CANADIAN CITIES (but no mention of our sustainable marine-sewage treatment?)

February 9, 2011

Housing affordability remains the biggest challenge facing Canada's cities, according to the mayors of those judged the most sustainable.

Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto respectively topped the lists of most sustainable cities in the small, medium and large categories in a ranking released Wednesday by Corporate Knights, a magazine that promotes clean capitalism.

"It's a challenge to focus on sustainability when affordability is a big struggle and obviously Vancouver and Victoria are cities that grapple with the affordable housing shortage," Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said during the Federation of Canadian Municipalities sustainability conference, at the Victoria Conference Centre, where the award was announced.

"Without a national plan on housing to support more social and affordable housing, without the province at the table consistently with more dollars, it's very difficult for cities on their own to tackle this."

Lack of affordable housing becomes a regional problem, Robertson said, as people look for cheaper housing further and further afield, placing stress on transportation systems.

"So you get a combination of challenges from community and social challenges to environmental and, ultimately, economic challenges because the regions become less efficient and cities struggle to compete."

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Toronto Coun. Pam McConnell agreed.

"I think this is really a nationwide crisis in terms of ensuring that, in fact, we have sustainability to keep our workforce in the cities which includes being close to their work but also having decent affordable housing and food security," said McConnell.

Fortin said the path to sustainability communities is around density and transportation planning. "We recognize that the big success is that we don't have that big push to go out and eat up the agricultural farmlands. So as we start to do what we need to do in our major city cores, we have to rely on both the province, through the agricultural land reserve, or on our neighbouring municipalities to protect that rural nature. We can't continue to sprawl."

Fortin said the city's award reflects the values of Victorians. "So much of this award really goes back to the citizens that help make up the city, that work in sustainable industry, that vote for the councils," he said.

Victoria beat five cities in its category in its first appearance in the competition. In all, 17 cities were ranked. Big cities were counted as those with a population of more than 700,000; medium was more than 250,000 and small was between 10,000 and 250,000.

Cities were assessed on 28 indicators spanning five categories of sustainability: ecological integrity; economic security, governance and empowerment, infrastructure and built environment, and social well being. Victoria and Vancouver tied with a top score of 71 per cent. Victoria's rivals in the small cities category were St. John and Saskatoon (61 per cent), Yellowknife (60 per cent), Charlottetown (58 per cent) and Whitehorse (53 per cent).

Victoria was the only city to achieve a perfect score for both gender and visible minority representation on city council. The city also ranked high for economic security, infrastructure and built environment, and social well-being.


DEADLINE TODAY FOR YOUR INPUT TO CRD SUSTAINABILITY PLAN (support our sustainable natural sewage treatment!)

"Working Toward a Sustainable Region"

CRD's new Sustainability Portal features Regional Sustainability Strategy (RSS) questions and opportunity for your input.
The CRD has produced several policy briefs, each with its own set of policy options. 

For sewage treatment input, go to: 

Friday, February 11 marks cut-off date for first round of responses to policy options papers. Responses received by that date will be used in preparing for a Forum of Councils

- Explore at least those three policy briefs and answer any or all questions

Let CRD know how our natural, marine-based sewage treatment system will be a most sustainable part of our future infrastructure!!