Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The high cost of developing rural land. Sewerage fees increasing in Metro Vancouver.

When people think of what infrastructure is required to build and sustain a growing region, thoughts of streets, parks, garbage/recycling service, and lighting come to mind. Of course, water, sewer, and other utilities are required, but because they are usually buried underground, they are out of sight and out of mind.

Clean water and sewer treatment are the basic requirements to ensure that public health is maintained. Providing these services in a growing region like Metro Vancouver is not without cost. The Metro Vancouver regional district builds and operates the main water and sewer networks in our region. For more information on who provides services in our region, check out an infographic posted to this blog.

The regional district maintains a network of wastewater treatment facilities and sewer mains which are divided into four disconnected areas as shown on the following map.

Map of Metro Vancouver sewerage areas. Select map to enlarge.

Most of the region, including the South of Fraser, is in the Fraser Sewerage area. This sewerage area also services the fastest growing parts of our region which means that major investment is needed to keep up with demand.

Metro Vancouver has recently published a list of sewerage projects that are required to accommodate the growing population in our region. For the Vancouver area, $49 million in projects are required. $3.5 million in projects are required in the North Shore area. $53 million in projects are required in the Lulu Island (Richmond) area.

For the Fraser Sewerage area, a staggering $2.6 billion in projects are required over the next 25 years to accommodate growth. Many of these projects in the Fraser Sewerage area are to support rapidly urbanizing, former rural areas. 96% of all sewerage projects to accommodate growth in our region will be built in the Fraser Sewerage area over the next 25 years.

In our province, these types of projects are paid for by development cost charges. This means that for every new housing unit or square foot of commercial/industrial property built, the developer must pay the regional district a fee.

Because of the level of investment needed in the Fraser Sewerage area, Metro Vancouver is proposing a significant increase in these development fees as noted in the following table.

Proposed Development Cost Charges for sewerage, by area. Select table to enlarge.

Because Metro Vancouver has different rates for different parts of our region, it highlights how it is costlier to build out a sewer network due to sprawl as opposed to redevelopment. Unfortunately, because of the size of the Fraser Valley sewerage area, it means that development projects in New Westminster are paying for the cost of service expansion in South Surrey.

While it may be less money for a developer to build in rural areas, it costs society more. Sewer service is just one of many examples of this.

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