Anmore Green’s septic problem goes to court

Anmore council has agreed in principle the only solution to resolve the ongoing septic issues at the Anmore Green strata complex is to connect the 51 homes to Port Moody’s municipal sewer system.

But a petition by the Anmore Green Estates (AGE) strata to B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Oct. 12 to extend the process with the village to allow 11 properties on a decommissioned septic field to be developed could further delay a resolution to the problem of contaminated leakage burbling up near Eagle Mountain middle and Heritage Woods secondary in Port Moody. 

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On Oct. 19, the judge hearing the case rejected Anmore Green’s request for a quick decision and ordered a full hearing. No court date has been set.

Brandie Roberts, the vice-president of Anmore Green’s strata council, said owners will need to develop part of the property to pay for the cost of the sewer hookup and the annual expense of membership in the Metro Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District that administers municipal sewer systems for all of Metro Vancouver. In a letter sent to Anmore council on Monday, she said the initial cost estimate of $200,000 to achieve that has already doubled.

“The value of these lands funds this process and the eventual connection cost,” Roberts told The Tri-City News. “Without the funding for the connection coming from our septic land, our community doesn’t know how we’ll pay for the costs to connect.”

A resolution passed by Anmore council on Oct. 16 said the residents of the strata must bear all the costs associated with hooking up Port Moody’s sewer system just 60 metres away, as well as ongoing costs to be connected to the regional sewerage system.

Anmore Mayor John McEwen said the annual ongoing flow costs would be about $10,000, increasing to $12,000 in five years, as well as any additional maintenance costs.

McEwen said council’s assent only applies to the strata’s existing 51 homes.

Roberts said attempts to engage in a dialogue with Anmore about the future use of the vacant property have gone nowhere.

Anmore Green’s petition asked the court to void an amendment made to Anmore’s zoning bylaws in Oct., 2017, that, among other things, specifically removed “additional development capacity” at Anmore Green Estates should the septic field no longer be required.

In documents filed in court, Anmore Green said the bylaw was passed less than a month after it had applied on Sept. 18, 2017, to subdivide 11 properties on the old septic field, something it claims was entrenched in the village’s original approval to allow construction of the housing strata. 

Anmore Green argued that, according to Section 511 of the B.C. Local Government Act, because the application for subdivision of the property was submitted to the village before the bylaw amendment was adopted, it shouldn’t apply, nor should it have any effect on any subdivision application for 12 months after adoption.

The strata also said in a meeting between the property’s developer and Anmore’s approving officer on Sept. 27, 2018, it was told the village had no intention of considering the subdivision application until after Oct. 17.

“It seems to us the clock has been purposely run out for the 12 month bylaw grace period for processing our application,” Roberts said.

McEwen said the ongoing legal case prevents him from going into further detail. But he did affirm any subdivision of the strata contradicts Anmore’s official community plan that was adopted in 2014.

High levels of fecal coliform and e. coli were found in groundwater seeping from Anmore Green’s septic fields during routine testing last year. That resulted in a pollution abatement order from the Ministry of Environment that required Anmore Green to take steps to ensure no health risks to the public. In December, the strata erected steel blue fencing and warning signs around part of the Eagle Mountain middle school’s property that includes a hillside where kids often play or take shortcuts to get home.

Last August, the Ministry of Environment issued a new pollution abatement order, this time to the Village of Anmore, in an effort to hasten a resolution. 

That order requires the Village of Anmore to prepare a waste management plan for all its liquid municipal waste by Nov. 30.

McEwen said Anmore remains steadfast in its resolve not to connect the entire village to the regional sewerage system so it can maintain its semi-rural character. But, he added, given council’s acceptance of the idea of allowing a connection specifically for Anmore Green, the village has requested the Ministry of Environment rescind its abatement order.

Roberts said time is of the essence.

“Taking away the opportunity for development means each AGE homeowner’s financial security is at risk,” she said. “This whole issue is terrifying. We’ve always wanted expedited resolution to stop the health risk created.”

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