Coun­cil con­sid­ers credit and ap­peals pro­gram for pro­posed stormwa­ter fee

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­pub.com

On Mon­day, city coun­cil heard the de­tails of a new stormwa­ter credit and ap­peals pro­gram, one of the fi­nal pieces to the pro­posed stormwa­ter fee and util­ity the city has been con­sid­er­ing for the last year.

Ac­cord­ing to city staff and Black and Veatch of­fi­cials, the credit pro­gram is meant to re­duce the fee for non-res­i­den­tial parcels with rain gar­dens, green roofs and other mea­sures to curb stormwa­ter runoff, while the ap­peals process is for prop­erty own­ers who be­lieve they were charged un­fairly.

Some mem­bers of coun­cil ex­pressed con­cerns with the credit pro­gram, which would give non­res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties in the city up to 10 per­cent off their stormwa­ter bills for meet­ing state sed­i­ment and stormwa­ter reg­u­la­tions and up to 25 per­cent for ex­ceed­ing those re­quire­ments. Parcels that in­fil­trate 100 per­cent of runoff would get a 50 per­cent stormwa­ter credit.

Coun­cil mem­bers Chris Hamil­ton and Jen Wal­lace were not in fa­vor of a 10-per­cent credit just for meet­ing code. They felt non-res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties should not be re­warded for com­ply­ing with the law.

Ap­prox­i­mately 55 per­cent of land in Ne­wark is con­sid­ered non-res­i­den­tial and 45 per­cent is res­i­den­tial, but res­i­dents would not be al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in the credit pro­gram, and that both­ered Hamil­ton.

“Roughly a lit­tle over half of this city could sud­denly, if they de­cide to in­vest their money in it, could all of a sud­den re­duce all their fees and 45 per­cent have no op­tion to re­duce their fees,” he said.

“If that hap­pens, we’ve solved a lot of our prob­lems,” ex­plained Tom Cole­man, act­ing city man­ager. He said stormwa­ter mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts re­duce the im­pact on the city’s stormwa­ter sys­tem dur­ing heavy rain­storms, but Hamil­ton was still con­cerned.

Hamil­ton ar­gued that Ne­wark’s long list of stormwa­ter projects need to be ad­dressed and the city needs the money from the stormwa­ter fee to do that. Over time, he said, if enough non-res­i­den­tial parcels re­ceive cred­its to re­duce their bills, there won’t be enough money in the stormwa­ter fund. He added he’s es­pe­cially wor­ried about the Univer­sity of Delaware.

“They have the re­sources; they own a huge chunk of this land; they could even, who knows, do it as one of their fun projects as they tear down trees,” he said. “I would hope that this plan would be flex­i­ble that if we see that trend go­ing that we put a plug in it be­cause the de­mands that we have on our stormwa­ter, to fix the things that we have iden­ti­fied over the next 10 years is not go­ing to change.”

In or­der to help cover the city’s stormwa­ter man­age­ment costs, Black and Veatch is rec­om­mend­ing Ne­wark im­ple­ment a fee based on im­per­vi­ous sur­face and es­ti­mates it will cost res­i­dents any­where from $1.73 to $5.20 each month. If ap­proved, im­ple­men­ta­tion of a stormwa­ter fee would be­gin in 2018.

Un­der the firm’s sug­gested model, res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties would be placed into tiers, with Tier 1 be­ing any par­cel with less than 1,289 square feet of im­per­vi­ous area. Ac­cord­ing to Black and Veatch Di­rec­tor Prahba Ku­mar, those prop­erty own­ers would pay $1.73 per month.

Res­i­dents with 1,290 to 1,950 square feet of im­per­vi­ous area – the most com­mon type of par­cel in the city – would pay $2.89 per month, and res­i­dents with 1,951 to 2,610 square feet of im­per­vi­ous area would pay $3.76 per month. Tier 4 res­i­dents with 2,611 square feet of im­per­vi­ous sur­face or more would pay $5.20 per month.

The rate for con­do­mini­ums and non-res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties would be in­di­vid­u­ally cal­cu­lated based on av­er­age runoff fac­tor for that type of par­cel, whether it’s a park­ing lot, com­mer­cial build­ing, in­dus­trial site, a park or a ceme­ter y.

Coun­cil­man Stu Markham agreed if there are cred­its for non-res­i­den­tial parcels, there should be cred­its for res­i­den­tial parcels, too. He said res­i­dents who want to in­stall rain gar­dens and other meth­ods to curb runoff should be able to get a dis­count on their bills with­out hav­ing to go through the ap­peals process.

“There is no in­cen­tive,” Markham said. “There is noth­ing that says, ‘make things bet­ter.’”

Wal­lace sug­gested the city cre­ate a guide that ex­plains dif­fer­ent types of projects res­i­dents can do to re­ceive credit.

“There are res­i­dents who, they wouldn’t know where to start, so we can of­fer them a place to start,” she said.

Cole­man ex­plained the credit ap­pli­ca­tion costs $150, so res­i­dents would have to in­stall a project that saves sev­eral hun­dred dol­lars a year for it to be worth it. That’s why it makes the most sense for non-res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties, he said.

Still, Wal­lace didn’t think that seemed fair.

“Res­i­dents aren’t go­ing to like this,” she said.

Coun­cil in­for­mally di­rected staff to move for­ward with fi­nal­iz­ing an or­di­nance for a stormwa­ter fee to be voted on at a fu­ture meet­ing.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Main Street floods af­ter heavy thun­der­storms moved through Ne­wark last June. The city is plan­ning to charge res­i­dents a stormwa­ter fee to raise money to fix the ag­ing storm sew­ers.

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