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Stormwater fees spark debate in Markham
July 16, 2015
By Laura Finney

Markham businesses have to wait a few more months before council decides how much they will pay in stormwater fees.

During a council meeting last month, city staff brought forward a report on non-residential stormwater fees, but Richard Cunningham, president and CEO of the Markham Board of Trade (MBT) made a deputation and said he was not happy with the preferred option staff had suggested.

In the report, staff had presented a number of options including a council-approved fee of $29 per $100,000 of the current value assessment (CVA) of the property.

They also looked at a two-tiered structure, where properties valued less than $5 million would play a flat fee of $154, and those over $5 million would pay a flat rate of $4,351.

According to the report, the Markham Board of Trade, which represents about 800 local businesses, and Cadillac Fairview endorsed the two-tiered structure.

But city staff recommended the council-approved structure.

However, Cunningham requested council defer its decision and bring the issue back, so the city could work with the board to come up with a better option.

He said it’s important Markham be seen as a place that works with the business community to find equitable solutions.

The stormwater fees will help fund the 30-year flood control program approved in 2013. It is estimated the program will cost $234 million to $288 million, according to the staff report.

To fund this program, the city will be collecting $9.6 million a year - $2 million will come from the Federal Gas Tax program and the rest from stormwater fees, which are split between residential properties and non-residential properties.

Last year, council approved a fee rate of $47 per year for residential properties, which was implemented this year.

It also approved a fee of $29 per $100,000 of the CVA for non-residential properties, but in November, deferred the implementation until 2016 so the city could complete a communication engagement process with the business community.

Members of staff said they recommended the council approved option because the two-tiered option was not fair.

“If a property has a CVA of just under $5 million they are paying $154. If they are just over $5 million, even if it’s just a dollar over, they are paying 28 times that amount,” said Mark Visser, senior manager, Financial Strategy and Investments. “That’s what we couldn’t get past.”

Cunningham asked how it was fair to have a flat fee for residents, noting someone who owns a $700,000 property pays the same amount as someone who owns a $3 million property. “I think if the city is going to take an approach it should be a consistent one. I’m not asking you to do that and put in a flat fee. But I think as you answer these questions, you need to keep that in back of your mind, because it sends a clear message to businesses.”