SARNIA TRANSIT- Blackburn News Sarnia File photo by Meghan BondSARNIA TRANSIT- Blackburn News Sarnia File photo by Meghan Bond

Council dismisses transit levy exemption request

Sarnia council has supported a staff recommendation to maintain the status quo and not approve a requested transit levy exemption.

Property owners in the Twin Lakes area, north of Michigan Avenue and just east of Murphy Road, paying the levy for the first time this year, argued nearby bus stops were over 450 meters away.

Councillor Terry Burrell said the fact is, a lot of people don't use transit, but still pay the tax.

"I have to agree with a comment made in this report, where it says, 'overall staff preference would be to eliminate the transit area levy,' which basically means transit, like every other service would be in a general levy, and to me that makes the most sense," said Burrell.

Burrell said city transit should be no different than police, fire and public works.

"Quite often it's really more of a social service. It helps people who are younger, who don't have vehicles, it's a big, big, support for the college."

Burrell said including transit in the general levy would also limit residents from fighting transit going into their area.

"We really should be encouraging it being used all over the city as part of our [commitment to] fighting global warming."

Councillor Brian White agreed that the service benefits the city whether you ride it or not.

"If folks think that they're not benefitting from transit, I would simply ask them to go through their day, take stock of where they spend money, which lower paid workers who can't afford vehicles are serving them and benefit from transit in order to offer them lower prices when they are spending money on products and services," said White.

In 2019, council amended bylaws to exclude property owners on Telfer Road, south of Highway 402, from paying the levy.

Engineering and operations general manager David Jackson said the Twin Lakes area is different.

"There are many properties that are in the bylaw, that have always been in the bylaw, that are in the exact same situation as these property owners. So, all throughout the city, we have properties that would actually have to walk farther than 450 meters along the road to get to the bus stop. So, our position was, if we're providing these new property owners an exemption, then we should be providing all of these property owners the exemption and there's many of them throughout the city."

It's expected councillor Burrell will present a motion at the next regular meeting to eliminate the transit levy completely.

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