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Burnaby man doesn't want to pay 'unfair' $33,000 city fee

The bylaw helps the municipality pay for infrastructure improvements, mayor says
storm drain hayre
The City of Burnaby says the homeowner Dave Hayre has to pay for a portion of this ditch to be turned into a modern storm drain sewer when he redevelops his property.
  • Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the fee being charged was associated with a sewer separation bylaw. The bylaw in question is Burnaby’s storm sewer extension contribution and fee bylaw. The story has been updated. 

A Burnaby homeowner wants the city to change an “unfair” bylaw that could cost him more than $30,000.

Dave Hayre plans to tear down and replace his home on Napier Street in the Willingdon Heights neighbourhood. He said he purchased the property in 2006 with the intention to redevelop. 

But, Hayre said, he didn’t expect his building budget to include paying the city’s costs associated with connecting his property to a storm drain line behind his property and replacing a ditch that drains into a watchbasin at the bottom of the sloped lane.  

The city told him he needs to pay $33,277 to cover the work before it issues a building permit for his new home. 

“I don't have that kind of money to just throw around,” Hayre said. “It’s very unfair for anybody to just come up with a lump sum like that.”

The fee is being charged to Hayre as a result of a bylaw passed by city council in 2017, explained Jonathan Helmus, Burnaby’s assistant director of engineering for infrastructure and development.

Hayre’s redevelopment will initiate the city to extend the sewer line along the lane behind his entire block, Helmus said, but Hayre will only have to pay for the share of the project behind his property. 

The city will pay for the rest of the new infrastructure upfront and charge Hayre’s neighbours for their share only once they submit a building permit for a project exceeding $250,000, he said. 

“If they are doing a significant addition where they may impact their drainage for their property, and they're doing potential excavation on their property and they're spending $250,000, we're saying then that can be an appropriate time to connect their house to the storm sewer,” Helmus told the NOW.

The goal is to one day connect the 20% of detached homes that currently aren’t hooked up to the city’s storm sewers, he said, and by making homeowners pay for the upgrades, the City of Burnaby will save an estimated $200 million, he said.  

Changing climate and housing trends give the initiative urgency, Helmus said.

“With more parking space, with a much bigger house, they're throwing a lot of water into the lane and the ditch is not designed for that kind of water and certainly not with climate change,” he said. “We're concerned that if everyone is trying to connect to the ditch, that the ditch is just going to erode away, it's going to flood, and that would be a problem.”

Hayre said he doesn’t think he should have to pay for the work.

“I think it's really unfair that they're forcing people to pay for infrastructure that is not even on their own property,” he said. 

But Helmus said it wouldn’t be fair for the general taxpayer to bear the burden of paying for the upgrades because property owners living in homes already connected to storm sewers either paid for the connection when they build their home or that cost was passed down to them when they bought it.