Cobourg Council – Outrage Continues Over Cobourg’s Stormwater Fee Structure

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Outrage continues over Cobourg’s policy of billing for its stormwater-management infrastructure based on the size of a resident’s property as opposed to charging a fee for service.

At its May council meeting, correspondence was received from the Honourable Lisa Thompson, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs urging against letting these charges fall too heavily on the farming properties that have large acreage, and suggesting a look at the policy of Brant County which exempts agricultural properties from such a fee.

Colleen Bell spoke to council, purporting to represent a group of property owners adversely affected – residential and rural properties, and even cemeteries.

At the March council meeting, Bell requested a continuation of the practice (which will expire in June) of waiving interest charges on unpaid stormwater-management fees until this issues is resolved, but she hasn’t heard back.

At 1.5% monthly, she pointed out, that’s an additional $15 each month for every $1,000 in unpaid fees. Some people still owe from 2023, she pointed out, and she knows of one agricultural owner who still owes $30,000 from last year (with interest accruing at $450 a month)

She introduced Brian Crews of the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture, who represents Northumberland, Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington, and Hastings Counties on the provincial body. Of the 750 OFA members in Northumberland County, he noted only a handful of the farms represented contain Cobourg land.

“However, every farm is important, and it takes many handfuls to make a whole.”

Crewes said that the OFA does not support the type of fee, “referred to as a stormwater fee, that is a charge where no municipal drain infrastructure exists.”

This is something he has personally discussed with Minister Thompson, he said, and she shares these concerns.

“Farms are not covered in asphalt, but are considered permeable surface,” he noted, essentially acting to some extent as their own stormwater drainage system by minimizing stormwater run-off.

To the argument that farmland has appreciated in value in recent years, so this new expense should not be a problem, he retorted that everyone’s property has appreciated in value. At any rate, in the here and now, equity doesn’t pay the bills.

Cobourg resident Laslo Jankovich has been devastated by fees applying to his five-acre parcel of land. The first bill he got said his monthly charge would be $997. All enquiries he made ended with the same message – for that monthly fee, he would be getting nothing in return. He termed this arrangement “mafia-style extortion.”

The matter will be brought up next week at the appropriate standing-committee meeting, Mayor Lucas Cleveland said, with a report due at the June 26 council meeting.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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