Colwood hopes to cut a deal by this fall to distance itself from the region’s sewage treatment megaproject, its mayor says.
Carol Hamilton said she hopes behind-the-scenes negotiations between Colwood, the Capital Regional District and the private developers of Capital City Centre will be finalized within months.
The deal could see Colwood rely on a private sewage treatment plant at the planned Capital City Centre residential development, rather than pay its full share of the $783-million CRD sewage treatment project, Hamilton said.
“It’s not going to be a free service for taxpayers,” she said. “If everything comes out according to the numbers, there’ll be an offset.”
Colwood has been trying for years to get out of the CRD sewage project. Its council voted to reject the project in 2009, paid $700,000 for a failed sewage treatment pilot project, and then tried to partner with Langford to create a West Shore sewage solution.
But none of the attempts was successful.
Only 14 per cent of Colwood residents are actually on the sewage system, with the rest on septic tanks, so they won’t benefit from the sewage treatment plan.
Colwood, like other municipalities, is set to pay not only for current sewage treatment demand, but also expected future capacity. Yet the city isn’t growing as quickly as the CRD projects, Hamilton said.
The Capital City Centre project calls for mixed-use retail and a 27-storey residential tower phased in over 15 years. It is proposing a sewage treatment facility with heat and water reuse, similar to the Dockside Green facility in Vic West.
“If everything went swimmingly and smoothly, everything could be up and running by 2016, before the CRD plant is up and running [in 2018],” Colwood Coun. Judith Cullington said of Capital City Centre’s treatment plant.
CRD sewage committee chairwoman Denise Blackwell said she does not think Colwood has the necessary Ministry of Environment approval to start altering its commitment to the CRD sewage project.
The ministry requires private treatment plants to have a backup plan, which is usually dumping into the CRD sewer line. That requires at least some participation and payment in the regional sewage treatment plan, she said.
“As long as you have to hook up to the system, the costs are the same as everyone else’s,” Blackwell said.
“Paying their share depends on the capacity they ask for. I suppose they could reduce their share, theoretically, by asking for less capacity, but I don’t know how that would work.
“They wouldn’t have to buy future capacity, but they’d have to pay for the system. They are part of the system right now.”
If Colwood is successful in pushing the Capital City Centre sewage plant, it’s unclear if the city would still be on the CRD sewage committee or cast votes on the future of the project, Hamilton said.
The city would then encourage a future development at Royal Bay to have its own sewage treatment plant that could handle future demand for the community, she said.
“The bureaucracy and the wheels turn very slowly,” Hamilton said. “I believe the CRD wants us to ensure we dot all our i’s and cross the t’s. All that’s being done now.”