Residents have two chances to speak up on new stormwater fee in Champaign
CHAMPAIGN — The city's proposed stormwater utility fee continues to make its way toward appearing on property owners' bills, and residents can attend two upcoming meetings to learn more about it.
City officials are preparing to show the final details of the fee to the city council on Feb. 28, but before they do, they want to hear from the public.
The fee has been in the works for a year and a half. In August, the city council supported a plan that would bring in $3.2 million annually in new revenues for storm water drainage projects throughout the city.
As it stands right now, all the money available for storm water drainage projects — like the massive improvements to sewer systems along John Street — is committed. Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt has said there is still $80 million worth of unfunded projects awaiting money.
Under the plan the council supported but has yet to finalize, owners of properties with 6,000 square feet or less of impervious surface would pay $4.94 per month — close to $60 per year.
Impervious surface includes anything that produces storm water runoff instead of letting rain water penetrate into the ground, like concrete driveway surfaces and roofs. About 80 percent of Champaign homeowners would fall under this first category.
Homeowners with 6,001 to 8,000 square feet of impervious surface would pay $10.55 per month, or $126.60 annually. Owners of residential properties with more than 8,000 square feet of impenetrable surfaces would owe $13.64 per month — $163.68 annually.
Commercial properties would pay at a rate of $5.24 per 3,478 square feet of impervious surface. That would mean much higher bills for owners of retail centers with broad parking lots, like those on North Prospect Avenue or Market Place Mall.
The fee would also apply to properties owned by some other government bodies, like the school and the park districts.
The council also supported an incentive program, in which property owners could get breaks on their bills or cash payments for taking steps to reduce their runoff, and consequently the demand they put on the city's storm water drainage system.
Schmidt said on Wednesday that city officials have been meeting with interested groups since the council's preliminary approval in August. Some groups have supported the fee, like residents of the Washington Street West watershed who are depending on the extra revenue to relieve flooding on their streets sooner rather than later.
Others have opposed the city's proposal, Schmidt said, saying it is not an appropriate step given the economy, he added.
The city of Urbana is working toward creating its own storm water fee, but its city council has yet to decide on specific details.
Schmidt said the upcoming meetings in Champaign will give members of the general public a chance to learn more about the fee and give their input.
Storm water fee informational meetings
— Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., Robeson Pavilion Rooms A and B
— Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the City Building, 102 N. Neil St., in the city council chambers