Friday, February 29 – Council OKs Plan To Share Cost For Stormwater Project

OCEAN CITY – The City Council approved the concept of a stormwater management retrofit cost share program transfer this week that aims to provide incentives for older properties throughout Ocean City.

Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer pitched the program to the Mayor and Council this week, explaining that water quality and flooding could see improvements with the implementation of a cost share program.

Blazer presented the council with the concept of the stormwater retrofit cost share program, which would provide a dollar for dollar match to property owners interested in installing new stormwater management practices.

According to Blazer, the benefits of the program would include reduced flood damage to private properties as well as to the town, particularly along Coastal Highway, enhanced real estate values, improved water quality in the town’s canals and adjacent waterways and ultimately an improved active use of waters.

“Development projects that were built prior to Jan. 1, 1985 were not subject to stormwater management measures thus would benefit greatly from installing a retrofit project,” said Blazer in her proposal, citing the high-rise condominiums as excellent candidates for stormwater retrofitting. “This is to expend to the earlier projects.”

Blazer noted that new projects are required to install updated stormwater management practices.

“Along high-rise row, everything just dumps right on the highway,” Blazer said, explaining that the program could help decrease the flow of water and increase the quality of that water, which ultimately ends up in the coastal bays.

The cost share program would require partial funding from the town as an incentive to interested property owners. Qualifying properties and projects would receive money to help treat stormwater for water quality and flood reduction.

Property owners would be charged with supplying their own drawings, site plans and computations before being considered as a candidate.

Blazer noted that her proposal was still in the conceptual stages and that the Mayor and Council would ultimately decide on the final figures. Blazer suggested a dollar-for-dollar match up to a maximum of $5,000. The town’s match will initially come from money transferred from the Critical Area Mitigation Fund.

“This first year the proposed budget will be $10,000 and transferred from Stormwater/Critical Area Mitigation Funds. The first year we will have two projects up to $5,000 each or combination of a number of projects to equal $10,000. Projects that meet the above criteria will be accepted first come first serve,” reads the proposal. “It is hoped that in future years matching funds from other revenue/grant sources to help pay supplement these funds.”

“This would be geared more towards larger condominium projects,” Blazer said, explaining that she envisions the program being utilized for multi-family projects, condominiums and restaurants rather than single-family homes.

“I think it’s a great idea to retrofit,” said Councilwoman Margaret Pillas.

Councilman Jim Hall questioned the funding source.

“I agree with your thought process, but why would you use town money to work on private properties,” said Hall.

Blazer answered, “Because its one of our actions in our CCMP, which you signed.”

According to Blazer, the Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan (CCMP) outlines action partners are to partake in helping to improve water quality. Providing an incentive is a way to spur property owners to take the necessary steps in stormwater retrofitting, which would ultimately affect the whole town, explained Blazer.

“I think it’s a win-win,” she said. “These people aren’t going to do anything if we don’t offer them an incentive.”

Councilwoman Mary Knight pointed out that many property owners would ultimately end up spending more money, but would appreciate the town’s incentive.

“If we give them $5,000, they’re probably going to put a lot more into it,” said Knight “I think it’s a very good use of this mitigation money.”

Councilman Jay Hancock said the projects could range from the minor to the major, but the funding could serve as further motivation.

“It doesn’t have to be complex projects,” said Hancock. “There are some relatively simple projects where the dollar for dollar match could be a big step.”

The council voted 5-1 to approve the concept, with Council President Joe Mitrecic in opposition.

Mitrecic opposed the program because of philosophical differences with how the state collects money for the Critical Area Mitigation Fund.

“If I agreed to this than that would mean I agree to the way the Critical Area funding is raised,” Mitrecic said.