August 27, 2008 · Updated 7:56 PM
In September of this year, the city of Arlington imposed a fee on all properties of the city for a stormwater utility. As this was a new fee, and as our neighborhood does not have gutters, curbs, sidewalks, sewers or storm drains I wondered how it applied to our property and that of our neighbors. In our utility bill there was a brief explanation that the City Council imposed the fee after much study and if we had any questions we could contact Cristy Brubaker at the Public Works Department.
We wrote Ms. Brubaker a letter expressing our concerns that the new fee did not comply with state law, specifically RCW 35.92.020 that states:
2) Subject to subsection (3) of this section, the rates charged shall be uniform for the same class of customers or service and facilities. In classifying customers served or service and facilities furnished by a system or systems of sewerage, the legislative authority of the city or town may in its discretion consider any or all of the following factors:
(a) The difference in cost of service and facilities to customers.
In addition, other statutes state that in order for a fee, assessment or charge to be levied for services to a particular property, the property must receive benefit from the charge. As our property and our neighbors do not receive benefit from the fee, since we have no gutters, curbs, sidewalks or drains, it must be removed.
After almost two months we finally received a reply from the city and Ms. Brubaker. The reply was somewhat condescending and to us offensive, as we felt we were being lectured as to how we contributed to the problem of stormwater. I am retired from the state of Washington where I worked as a forester for many years and I am very familiar with hydrology and effects of stormwater on forest, farm and urban lands. Our property, of 28 years, has less than one percent impervious surface and since the city has chosen not to provide stormwater removal from our neighborhood, we have taken it upon ourselves to install French drains on all down spouts, returning the runoff to the aquifer, unlike the city where it is piped to the river and out to Puget Sound.
The city has imposed the fee on all properties in the city limits, even where in new developments stormwater retentions systems are mandated. The developers pay to install the system; the property owners pay higher lot prices for the system, the homeowners association has to maintain the system and the city collects the fee. Somehow that does not seem fair.
If the city were to provide a stormwater drainage system to my neighborhood, I would gladly pay the fee. Until then, I urge the City Council to reconsider the ordinance and come up with a fair and equitable system that complies with state law.