The road ahead

East-west connector road gets green light, no change to property tax in 2023 Summerside budget

colin.maclean @JournalPEI COLIN MACLEAN



SaltWire Network


SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Summerside will start a major new infrastructure project this year that could change the face of the city. City council released the city's draft 2023/2024 budget on March 13, and the single most expensive standalone infrastructure project in it is the construction of the first phase of the east-west connector road. The budget has earmarked $5.5 million for work this year. The east-west connector road is a project that has been talked about for more than 20 years but has only started to gain forward momentum recently, as Summerside has entered a wave of development. The project is intended to ease traffic entering the city from Reads Corner, and open more than 300 acres of what is currently agricultural land for development. The road will eventually stretch from the intersection of MacEwen Road and Ryan Street to Water Street east. The city has split the project into two phases, each representing about half of the proposed road. It has yet to be determined which half will be built this year, but the money in the budget is intended to get one of them done this year. “In time, (this project) will open up a significant amount of building lots … which will deliver housing for our community which we know is so desperately needed,” said Mayor Dan Kutcher. “We have a significant supply issue for housing that is contributing in part to high housing costs. We have very low rental unit availability. The quickest and most effective thing that we can do is increase supply. We need to increase our building lots and places for our city to grow.” Overall, council described this budget as a difficult one. This follows a trend from the past several city council budgets. Inflation, natural disasters like post-tropical storm Fiona and a general unwillingness to further burden a public facing more financial pressures than ever, all made for some difficult discussion leading up to the budget, said Coun. Bruce MacDougall, chair of the finance committee. “I think we all knew when we walked into the room to do the budget this year it was going to be a tougher one. I think there's gotta be a lot of give and take,” said MacDougall. “Some people come in, even myself, with a want list. But I think we had to park a lot of those things this year to ensure we did a budget that was fair to the residents of Summerside.” Residents have two weeks to provide feedback before council makes a final decision on whether to adopt it. A vote will be taken at the March 29 meeting. Other highlights from the 2023/2024 Summerside municipal budget include: • No change to property tax rates • Summerside Electric will match Maritime Electric rates again this year • Water and sewer rates will be going up an average of 35 cents per day for residents • Credit Union Place's user fees will go up five per cent for the pool and three per cent for the arena • $2.4 million to construct the first building in the Summerside Business Commons (Greenwood Drive eco-business park) • $5.2 million in debt servicing costs • $755,000 for street resurfacing • $602,000 for remediation of storm sewer • $600,000 to finish the design of and potentially buy the land for the new fire hall • $500,000 for structural repairs to city hall • $460,000 for downtown infrastructure • $385,000 for active transportation infrastructure (a large portion of which is for repairs to the city's waterfront boardwalk) • An extra $50,000 to the community grant program • $271,000 for the replacement of sidewalks • $220,000 for public works equipment • $200,000 for fire and police equipment • $192,500 for the ditch infilling program