Self-Storage Owner Claims $100K Error on Sewer-Betterment Bill in Taunton, MA

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Meetinghouse Realty Investments, an Acton, Mass.-based real estate investment company, is contesting a $154,554 sewer-betterment bill it received for Taunton Self-Storage, a facility it owns in Taunton, Mass. Principal Richard Berry maintains the bill is more than $100,000 too high and should be $44,154.

The sewer-betterment program is part of Taunton’s efforts to comply with state and federal orders and eliminate all combined sewer overflow into the Taunton River. The betterments involve tying properties into the city’s sewer system rather than using private septic systems. The associated fees are typically paid by residential and commercial property owners over a 20-year period, with the city paying for the work with low-interest rate, revolving fund loans, according to the source.

According to Berry, the bill received by Taunton Self-Storage is based on geographic information the city provided to BETA Engineering, a consulting firm hired by the city’s Department of Public Works committee. A civil-engineering study commissioned by Berry to figure out how BETA came up with its assessment concluded that the original city data was faulty, he said.

Berry maintains BETA calculated a capacity of 7.8 “residential units” on the storage property, while his engineer’s report concluded a maximum of 2.23 residential units due to its unusual shape and less than 224 feet of frontage. The sewer-betterment bill the storage facility received averages $19,800 per unit. Berry’s proposed adjusted fee is based on the same average.

A letter from Berry contesting the fee was included in a city council agenda this week. Residents have previously protested sewer-betterment bills, but the courts have not ruled favorably to reduce or eliminate assessed fees, according to the source.

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