By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Watson and Associates – whose study of Cobourg’s storm-water management fees has resulted in the implementation of new fees that almost a dozen speakers decried as unfair at the Jan, 31 Cobourg council meeting – will be asked to examine their information in light of updates from members of the public on the widespread dissatisfaction with the new system introduced late last year.
The agency will be asked to bring a report back to council with alternate approaches, including the potential for a $200 cap on these fees.
The cap was one idea floated by the speakers, many of whom own large rural and agricultural properties.
Many also argued that they in fact save the town money on this kind of service with properties that have very little hard surface and are very absorbent of storm water.
Steven Woodward spoke of his family property suddenly liable for a $15,000 annual charge, while Andrew Ferguson mentioned the $14,000 he must pay annually for his 85 acres.
Mayor Lucas Cleveland said this is not a lot to pay, when these properties are worth millions of dollars.
Ferguson countered that he actually did sell his property in 2022 for $2.9-million, but the sale did not go through since his land is too close to Nagle Road – where a planned Highway 401 exit means that the land cannot be sold.
Allan Carruthers relayed protests on behalf of the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture, while retired municipal financial and funding-model expert Jason Ducharme worked up his own model of limiting fees on larger properties and instituting slight increases on smaller ones.
Representatives of St. Michael’s, St. Peter’s and Union cemeteries were present, having received storm-water bills for $5,800, $6,000 and $8,000 respectively. Former mayor Peter Delanty said St. Michael’s has no significant pecuniary value, and is zoned open space – “no houses, no businesses,” he said. “The property is 99.5% grass.”
“In my mind, it’s a tax masquerading as a fee. It’s unrelated to any revenue we may have, it’s unrelated to any use of the storm-water system,” stated former councillor Tony Farren on behalf of Union Cemetery.
Director of Public Works Laurie Wills pointed out that it’s not likely Watson’s review will be completed before at least a couple of months have passed. Meanwhile, these amounts are owing.
“After the report comes back, we would have to adjust those balances. If people have overpaid, there would be adjustments moving forward,” Wills said.