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Utility-rate exemption adopted

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Squamish home-based businesses won’t be double-billed for water and sewer use in 2012, but some councillors warn that exempting them sets a dangerous precedent.

In a 4-2 vote, Squamish council on Tuesday (June 5) passed a motion that municipal staff amend the 2012 utility rates so that home-based business, excluding salons and bed and breakfasts, will not be billed outside of their residential uses.

The motion comes after a heated debate that took place last month. Coun. Susan Chapelle originally proposed the change to the roughly 40-year-old bylaw after learning that daycares were being dinged for both residential and business utilities.

Coun. Doug Race said initially he had no problem exempting home-based daycares from the business utility fees, but added that this alteration goes far beyond that. Now almost all home-based businesses will have one less payment to make.

“I think we have to keep in mind first of all we are talking about profit-making businesses, we are not talking about charities here,” Race said, who voted against the motion, as did Coun. Ron Sander.

It doesn’t seem fair that a company in the business park has to pay for its business’s utility usage, while a home-based company doesn’t, he noted. The fees are based on actual costs of services. If the district exempts one sector of the community, the rest of residents and businesses have to subsidize that shortfall, Race said.

“Is it fair business that competes with those home-based businesses have to subsidize them?” he asked.

The utilities bylaw is scheduled to be reviewed this fall. District staff should examine the entire document rather than council trying to piecemeal components in and out of it, Race said.

Without a metering system, the utility bylaw will be full of inequities, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said. The motion presented helps bring things back to a “level playing field,” she said, noting only 15 business will be affected by the change.

“This is simply allowing our process in the next year to come into 2013 with a much better more comprehensive bylaw that is well thought out,” she said, noting 1970s’ ideals and definitions aren’t relevant today.

The Chief Newspaper