Stormwater remediation fees are on the agenda of a City Council committee

New stormwater remediation fees are on the agenda of a City Council committee Wednesday night, April 17. The 5 p.m. work session will hammer out details of the new tax that will appear on residents' water bills later this year.

Derisively dubbed the "rain tax" in an April 14 WJZ TV story, the fee was actually passed by city voters in a 2012 constitutional referendum. The idea is to tax residents to help repair and upgrade the city's stormwater plumbing system and clean up the bay. The city is currently spending almost $1 billion under a federal consent decree to improve its stormwater system.

The fee will be based on how much impervious surface covers a given building lot. So the more roof, driveway, and parking lot you have, the more you'll likely pay. Under the legislation introduced in City Council last summer, city officials would be able to estimate the impervious surfaces using aerial photographs or site visits. For homeowners, the as-yet-undetermined minimum fee would be for 820 square feet of impervious surface-about one typical rowhouse plus patio or parking pad. A "tier two" rate would cover properties with between 820 and 1500 square feet of impervious surface, and "tier three" would be for residences larger than that. Commercial properties would be charged according to "equivalent residential units," which are sized at 1050 square feet, the median for city houses.

Hardship exemptions will be available and homeowners will also be able to earn credits for stormwater management above and beyond the call of duty-such as breaking up concrete, planting trees, participating in stream or community cleanups, and the like.

The City Council has a copy of the proposed regulations and will offer amendments, says Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (14th District). Under a state law passed last year, the city has until July 1 to get the regulations settled. The city is one of nine Maryland jurisdictions that will be charging the fee.

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