Residents of Abbotsford’s rural uplands have found themselves in the crosshairs of city staff searching for new sources of revenue.
A letter from the city engineering department to residents of Bradner, Mount Lehman, and Sumas and Vedder Mountains created serious questions and concerns.
“It is the property owner’s responsibility to maintain drainage systems located in rural upland areas in Abbotsford,” the letter began.
Such a responsibility has not existed previously.
Despite the letter’s direction that rural residents will now need to be cutting down bushes and clearing blockages in city-owned ditches, city officials quickly clarified that position early this week.
It was not the intention to order people to take on such work, the city manager assured. The letter ruffled feathers that didn’t need to be ruffled, asserted the mayor.
The only question is how rural upland drainage work will be funded in the future. According to city hall, the costs have previously been covered by a fund generated by a diking levy on Sumas and Matsqui prairie properties – something quite different, indeed.
In 2009, the city proposed an uplands drainage fee, but in the face of strong protest, set the proposal aside.
Now it seems it could be reconsidered.
But why should rural residents be charged on top of their regular tax bill, for maintenance of city ditches?
How would urban residents react if they were suddenly charged an additional annual levy for maintenance of storm water drains?
How can Mayor Bruce Banman and council claim they are holding the line on taxes, held to 1.66 per cent this year, if they add significant fees for a specific group of taxpayers in the same year?
That’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.