Regional District Director Jim Abram says a petition to gage support for sewer service on Quadra Island doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Strathcona Regional District circulated the petition in May asking Quathiaski Cove residents if they would like to join the sewer system but only 30 per cent of affected properties were in favour of the project.
Abram, regional district director representing Quadra Island, said the petition was not a good indicator of the level of support.
“People were told if they didn’t send in a letter (response to the petition) it would be counted as a ‘no’. So some people didn’t bother and it was counted as a ‘no,’” Abram said. “It could have been that they had forgotten, it may have been they did not care, it may have been a ‘no’. The only way to get an accurate idea is to have a referendum.”
Abram feels residents in Quathiaski Cove do want sewer service as it was the residents who approached the regional district and asked to be put on the sewer system.
“This was about septic failure,” Abram said. “We had realtors and homeowners saying we need to join the sewer system to either live there or sell their properties. We had presentations to both staff and committees that told of a number of properties that were going to be condemned by the Vancouver Island Health Authority if we didn’t put them on sewer. So we were trying to solve a problem and it didn’t make sense to put one house on, skip a few and then put another house on.”
So the regional district went ahead with a petition to seek out support for the Quathiaski Cove sewer extension project that if approved would have extended sewer service to 53 properties, joining the 101 properties in the area already hooked up to the sewer.
At the time of the petition the project was expected to cost each property owner a one-time $18,400 connection fee, plus an annual sewer fee of $690. Abram said sewer user fees increased 132 per cent over last year and the steep price may have made property owners hesitant to sign up.
“Absolutely it’s an expensive project,” Abram said. “As soon as people saw that, why would they pay that much to join the sewer system when they have to pay that much for annual sewer costs?”
But, he said, if another 40 to 50 properties are added to the sewer system, user fees could go down by roughly 40 per cent. The regional district has also since learned it can use its Gas Tax Funds to subsidize the project and lower the price for property owners, though Abram said it’s not clear yet how much lower the cost would be.
Abram said he believes a contingent that were against being hooked up to the sewer system were able to capitalize on the expensive costs and persuade residents to defeat the proposal.
“The reason it got defeated was because of the way it was positioned and the lobby people had enough money to advertise – they were putting ads in the paper,” Abram said.
The bottom line, Abram said, is there are properties that should be serviced by the sewer system because they are less than 2.5 acres and have both a septic field and drinking water well on the property. Abram said they are “legally non-conforming.”