Letter: Burnaby has no justification for 'excessive' $35,000 sewer fee

Editor:

RE: He called a $33,000 sewer fee ‘unethical’. Burnaby appears to be caving, but should it? NOW blogs

Clearly it's all in your choice of words. 

What you call complaints, I call holding the City of Burnaby accountable for its decisions. Decisions such as passing Bylaw 13722 without any consultation with impacted parties. Delegating city staff to make unilateral decisions about “excessive” costs seemingly without clear policy. 

Contracting technically questionable storm sewer services. Registering addresses with “amounts owing” into Bylaw 13722 without informing those property owners. Scoping properties retroactively into the bylaw.

All this from a city that states the principles guiding its actions include being open, transparent, consistent and accountable. So when a letter arrives in my mailbox indicating my "contribution" to a storm sewer extension is upwards of $35,000, for a project I wasn’t even aware of, is it not reasonable to ask for an explanation? 

I have asked for an explanation, and other questions, as have many others, but instead I get vague references to the Local Area Services Program or past developer costs, or this most recent recommendation for a 50/50 split, but no real justification. 

I've seen little responsive information, other than that the new-builds across the street paid nothing for their storm extensions, and that the developer up the street was given the choice of whether to pump to an existing main, or have the city run a line in front of my home, without any notification to or input from downstream neighbours.   

It's interesting that the Burnaby NOW agrees that taxpayers deserve an explanation for the proposed 50/50 split - and to that I say, absolutely. But first, how about an explanation for Bylaw 13722? 

How about some real numbers? What has the city has actually contributed to the 80% of the storm sewer network already in place? Why is this question so difficult to answer, from an “open, transparent, consistent and accountable” municipality?

I think the city should justify its decisions, should be held accountable. I think it’s fair to ask questions. 

I don’t think I’m a complainer who should be pleased that the city "appears to be caving," nor do my neighbours. We just want some responsive answers to our reasonable questions. How discouraging that the Burnaby NOW, as a community newspaper, has chosen to vilify residents instead of digging a bit deeper. 

Maari Hirvi Mayne, Burnaby

Editor’s note: If readers choose to read my original blog you’ll note that in no way do I “vilify” homeowners upset about this issue. I said some of them are “hard to please.” That is hardly vilification. Also, at no point in my column do I say residents shouldn't question the City of Burnaby over this bylaw or hold them accountable. Also, the word "complaint" isn't inherently negative so people shouldn't take it as so.

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