No Objections To Salisbury’s Planned Stormwater Utility

SALISBURY – The establishment of a Stormwater Utility fee passed on first reading this week with a long road of work ahead before being implemented by the beginning of 2015.

An ordinance came before the City Council on first reading on Monday evening for the purpose of establishing a Stormwater Utility under the direction and supervision of the Public Works Department and further establishing a Stormwater Utility fee system.

According to the ordinance, “the City maintains a system of Stormwater facilities including, but not limited to, inlets, pipes, manholes, channels, ditches, drainage easements, retention and detention basins, infiltration facilities, and other components as well as natural waterways.

“The Stormwater System in the City needs to be upgraded, improved and regularly maintained. The existing Stormwater System is designed to convey stormwater to limit flooding, not treat stormwater to improve water quality, and water quality is degrading due to erosion and the discharge of nutrients, metals, oil, grease, toxic materials and other substances into and through the Stormwater System.

“The public health, safety and welfare is adversely affected by poor ambient water quality and extreme flooding that results from inadequate management of both the quality and quantity of stormwater.”

The ordinance furthers, “all real property in the City uses and benefits from the maintenance of the Stormwater System. The extent of the use of the Stormwater System by each property is dependent on factors that influence runoff, including land use and the amount of Impervious Surface on the property.

“The cost of improving, maintaining, operating and monitoring the Stormwater System should be allocated, to the extent practicable, to all property owners based on the impact of runoff from the Impervious Surface Areas of their property on the Stormwater System.

Management of the Stormwater System to protect the public health, safety and welfare requires that adequate revenues be generated to provide funding for the operation, improvement, maintenance and monitoring of the Stormwater System.”

The ordinance concludes, “it is in the interest of the public to finance the Stormwater System adequately with a user charge that is reasonable and deemed by the City to be equitable so that each user of the system pays to the extent to which each user contributes to the need for it.”

According to Public Works Director Mike Moulds, the effective date for the Stormwater Utility is recommended for Jan. 1, 2015. This will provide staff time to perform impervious area calculations, develop a recommended fee and notify property owners of the fee for their properties.

“We have enormous needs in terms of our stormwater infrastructure, so we are trying to deal with what we need to accomplish within a timeframe, and have the funds associated in moving forward,” Moulds said.

The current plan would call for a $20 per Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) fee with the fee for non-residential properties to be based on the amount of impervious surface on the property.

Brad Gillis, commercial real estate specialist, pointed out in 2010 the State of Maryland published guidance on the technical procedures and calculations necessary for redevelopment regarding Environmental Site Design (ESD), and asserted an issue will arise.

“Right of the bat, you’re creating a fee that is potentially unfair for the person that has complied with today’s regulation versus a person who has not complied with today’s regulation,” he said.

Council President Jake Day responded a credit system should be taken into consideration for those properties that have taken on stormwater management efforts already.

“Two of this things I have been interested in in terms of making it more fair are benchmarking everything developed in accordance with the 2010 Stormwater Design Standards and have that result in some automatic credit, and that we have a system of analyzing new sites whether its redevelopment or a residential site puts rain barrels in … but there should be a potential to have to pay none, in my mind, of the portion of the fee that is intended to mitigate the impacts of the water that you are capturing already on site if you are doing it,” Day said.

The council considered postponing first reading to allow staff additional time in researching a credit system but moved forward in voting unanimously to approve the ordinance due to time constraints but urged staff to further investigate a credit system in the meantime.