By Doug Hallett
City council has decided against creating the condominium advisory committee that was sought by an organization pushing for fairer city taxes for condo owners.
At its last meeting of the year, council decided to take no action on the request of an organization known as Fair Tax Campaign – Guelph.
Debate on the issue followed a challenge from Cavan Acheson, a member of the organization. “Elections loom, and your positions need to be made clear,” he said, referring to next October’s civic elections.
Council’s decision means condo owners will have to wait to see what’s in a draft report due out in February or March from a city hall group that is updating the city’s solid waste management master plan.
Coun. Lise Burcher said it would be premature for council to create a condominium advisory committee at this point.
Mayor Karen Farbridge agreed, saying there is plenty of opportunity now for members of the local Fair Tax Campaign to meet with city staff to discuss waste issues.
Farbridge said council could reconsider the request for a condominium advisory committee if council thinks an “implementation committee” is needed after the solid waste management master plan is updated next year.
Coun. Bob Bell sided strongly with the Fair Tax Campaign group, saying condo owners have been subsidizing regular homeowners for years through their property taxes.
Condo owners “pay the tax and they don’t receive the service,” he said.
Joining Bell in voting against the “no action” motion were councillors Jim Furfaro, Cam Guthrie and Andy Van Hellemond. Councillors Gloria Kovach and Leanne Piper were absent from the meeting, which was the last regular council meeting until February.
Acheson said the majority of housing units built in Guelph in the past two years have been condos.
He said it would be difficult for the city to meet its goals for diverting waste from landfill without participation by condos.
And, he said, it would also take longer for the city to recoup its investment in the new cart collection system and in the new composting plant.
Ted Pritchard, also speaking to council on behalf of the Fair Tax Campaign, called creation of a condominium advisory committee “a necessary first step in getting more condominium owners into compliance
with the city’s three-stream waste collection.”
The cart system that the city will finish phasing in next fall “wasn’t designed for and doesn’t work for low and high rise condominiums, and for most condominiums with small or no garages,” Pritchard said.
“The city is losing the waste collection from hundreds of condominium units that can’t switch from bags to carts and that will now have a private hauler take the garbage to landfill” for a fee, he said.
“Everyone loses,” Pritchard said. “These residents don’t get to sort their garbage responsibly. They pay twice to get rid of their garbage. The city loses the recyclables, and the dumps fill.”
Pritchard said a condominium advisory committee comprised of city staff and condo resident volunteers could help figure out how to address these problems.