Council briefs: Sewer and water fees up 5 per cent

Summary of key discussions from the public council meeting April 27.

Water and sewer fees increased 5 per cent

Council voted unanimously to enact bylaws increasing water and sewer user fees each by 5 per cent, as originally discussed at council’s special budget meeting April 23.

Revenue from those fees is used to upgrade the relevant infrastructure. For example, sewer fee revenue is used to fund sewer upgrade projects.

At the budget meeting April 23, director of finance Lori Greenlaw said an increase to the two utility fees was long overdue.

“Both of these funds have not seen rate increases in over 15 years,” she said. “They are not able to fund the capital works projects that are coming up in our 5-year plan.”

Mayor Carol Leclerc said the lack of fee increases was problematic.

“It’s hard on our asset management when we don’t keep up with these things,” she said at the April 23 meeting.

Water and sewer fees were originally set to increase 7.4 per cent this year, in a provisional budget presented December 2019. But the City lowered those increases to 5 per cent for 2020 following the COVID-19 outbreak, just like the property tax.

Now, water and sewer fees are set to increase 8 per cent in 2021, and 5 per cent per year in 2022, 2023, and 2024.

Lots rezoned on south side of Terrace

Two empty adjacent lots at the northwest corner of Kalum St. and Haugland Ave. were rezoned to allow low-density residential buildings. The lots were previously zoned for multi-family residential uses, such as apartment buildings.

David Block, director of development services, said the owner had previously attempted to build on the two lots.

“In the past, the owner had looked at developing [the two lots] as a consolidated parcel to do a multi-family development on,” Block told council. “It just proved a challenge to do a multi-family development.”

The owner also tried to sell the properties, but the multi-family zoning made the lots difficult to sell. Block noted that the properties had been zoned for multi-family residential use since 1995.

Block said the owner plans to construct detached or semi-detached (duplex) dwellings on the properties following the rezoning.

New community forest reserve fund established

The city has changed how it manages profits received from the Terrace Community Forest.

The Terrace Community Forest oversees several lands from which it can harvest and sell approximately 600 logging trucks worth of timber each year. The community forest is owned by the City of Terrace but is independently managed by a board of directors and a general manager.

Heather Avison, chief administrative officer for the city, told council that it’s difficult to factor community forest profits into the city’s budget each year because the community forest must first review its finances to determine how much money will go to the city. This meant the city’s finance department drawing up a budget would have to attempt to forecast how much money would come in from the community forest.

Instead, Avison said, city staff recommended the creation of a community forest reserve fund, where funds from the community forest would be held and then spent the following year, thus eliminating the need to forecast.

Staff also recommended creation of a policy that determines what kind of projects the community forest reserve fund could finance. Avison said these would generally be parks and recreation type projects, such as building trails or upgrading existing parks and trails.

Council was unanimously in favour of staff’s recommendations regarding the Terrace Community Forest.

The Terrace Community Forest is allowed to keep up to 50 per cent of its profits, to a maximum of $50,000, which it distributes as grants to community organizations.

Any additional profits will go into the reserve fund. Under the new agreement, the city can take up to $50,000 from the community forest reserve fund and flow it back to the Terrace Community Forest after an unprofitable year.

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