Harrison council raises commercial water rates

The proposed changes also include lowering the residential flat rate

Harrison Village Office.

Most things are subject to inflation and water rates are no exception.

The Harrison Hot Springs Village Council voted to increase commercial water rates to $1.00 per cubic metre at Monday’s meeting.

Currently, commercial water rates are $0.51 per cubic metre of water, even though the projected cost to produce water in 2016 is $0.91 per cubic metre, an increase of six cents from 2015.

Because there is no minimum charge at his point, the current fee is “not sufficient to cover the costs of production,” as stated in the report presented to council, which also reads that “It is Council’s goal to continue to take steps toward rate equity to ensure that water costs are fairly shared between customer types.”

The increase in fees will be the first since April 2009, as there was a proposed increase in 2014, which was never implemented.

The proposed changes also include lowering the residential flat rate from $311 to $280 per year, and the secondary suite rate from $155 to $140.

The recommendation was unanimously approved by council.

“It only makes sense that we up that so we recoup what we’re paying because it’s not sustainable currently as it is,” Councillor Sonja Reyerse noted.

Reyerse pointed out to council that the recommendation did not address short-term rental units.

“I would also like to recognize that bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals in the area should be paying because that should be looked at like a secondary suite,” she said. “It has to be a level playing field that way.”

But monitoring such units isn’t that easy, as Chief Administrative Officer Madeline McDonald explained.

“We don’t currently have a way to capture those properties because they’re not identified by any mechanism in our bylaws or in our business licencing,” she said. “We would have to come up with a way to enumerate and regulate [bed and breakfasts] of less than four units in their house and vacation rentals, which is a challenge.”

With the rise of home sharing businesses, such as Airbnb, regulating short-term rentals is becoming increasingly difficult.

“It’s a difficult issue being faced in every community and the problem is we don’t normally regulate rentals,” McDonald continued. “How to differentiate between rentals and short-term rentals and to apply those regulations fairly across the board will take some consideration.”

Rather than sending the recommendation back for further revision, council approved it, but also presented a motion that identifies vacation rentals and bed and breakfasts with less than four units, and that a category be set up with a quarterly and annual flat rate.

The new commercial rate will be effective October 1, 2016, and the new minimum quarterly charges and minimum annual rates will be implemented January 1, 2017.