Urbana council forwards storm-water fee for final vote

Urbana council forwards storm-water fee for final vote

URBANA — City council members on Monday night forwarded the storm-water utility fee for one more vote — at this rate, bills could start going out in September 2013.

All council members supported the new charge on property owners for storm-water runoff except for Robert Lewis, who was absent, and Heather Stevenson, who said homeowners should not have to foot the bill for the city's lack of foresight.

"The city has to do a better job of planning ahead and not going back to taking care of things that should have been thought of before," said Stevenson, R-Ward 6.

But most council members agreed that a storm-water fee is a logical way to make up for dwindling funds as storm-sewer maintenance and improvements grow to be more of a problem.

"If you want to maintain the same level of service, then we need to establish these kinds of funds," said Alderman Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1.

The new fee is expected to generate $1.7 million annually in new revenue, which would be dedicated to storm-water drainage-related costs. The money would replace the $800,000 annually in general funds that the city currently uses.

Owners of single-family residences and duplexes would pay a flat fee of $61.80 annually, according to the ordinance the city council supported. That would be $2.51 more than what most Champaign homeowners will pay under a similar ordinance the Champaign City Council approved this month.

City officials said that could still be adjusted downward by a few dollars before the first bills go out next year. They initially speculated the bills would go out next spring, but have since moved that date back to next fall.

Other Urbana property owners would pay an amount based on their parcel's impervious surface area, which is any surface impenetrable to rain. Under the current proposal, those property owners would pay $5.15 monthly for every 3,100 square feet of impervious surface, which could include roofs and parking lots.

Economic development manager Tom Carrino said city officials met with the 25 property owners who would be paying the most toward the fee. They weren't happy about paying a new fee, he said, but they understood the logic behind it.

"If the businesses' employees or customers can't get there because the road outside is flooded, that's a serious impediment to doing business," Carrino said.

Alderwoman Diane Marlin, D-Ward 7, said the fee will allow the city to be proactive in fixing its infrastructure, instead of chasing problems after they happen.

"Nobody likes to raises taxes or fees, and they're the worst votes to take ever," Marlin said, "but sometimes we just have to do it."


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David Illinois wrote on April 24, 2012 at 6:04 am

The City just can't get enough!

goinfast00 wrote on April 24, 2012 at 8:04 am

At least one council member has a clue!!

An excellent article as to the insight of this debacle : http://municipalminute.ancelglink.com/2012/02/wake-of-flood-flood-waters-bloated.html

Wake of the Flood: Flood Waters, Bloated Budgets and a Plan to Save Your CommunityWhen cutting costs, few municipalities start with an overhaul of their stormwater management program.  But, as it turns out, they should.  Stormwater management eats up a large percentage of tax revenue (e.g. 20% of property taxes in Downers Grove, Illinois).  Stormwater management is often wildly inefficient and ripe for dramatic gains with little to no impact on the public.  Finally, all municipalities—home rule and non-home rule—have express authority to take action immediately. In short, stormwater management is the low hanging fruit of budget cuts.  Instead of reaching for painful employment cuts, start with the following steps and make some easy gains.  Here’s how to start:Step 1: Fix Your CodeIllinois law gives local governments legal authority to “regulate and determine the area of open spaces, within and surrounding such buildings,” and “set standards to which . . . structures shall conform.” 65 ILCS 5/11-13-1 (3); (6).  Plainly stated, local governments can set landscaping and grading standards for all buildings and structures in their jurisdiction. Moreover, the Illinois Legislature expressly states that local governments may use this authority to address “the hazards to persons and damage to property resulting from the accumulation or runoff of storm or flood waters.”Most communities have exercised this authority and included landscaping and grading requirements in their zoning codes.  However, few ordinances connect landscaping ordinances with stormwater management goals.  Take, for example, Village A and B. Village A manages runoff by funneling all stormwater from parking lots and roofs directly to the municipal storm system (in some cases, with temporary detention on-site to reduce flow rate).   At the same time, Village A requires landowners to plant vegetation in islands throughout a parking lot and around the perimeter.  Landowners are required to put curbs around the vegetated areas which keep stormwater funneling toward the municipality’s storm sewer system.  A new parking lot can create 16 times more stormwater runoff than the lawn or field it replaced.  Using the tax dollars, Village A takes on the sole responsibility of managing this flood of water with its storm sewer system.Village B takes a different approach.  Using the above authority, Village B requires parking lots to be graded toward the vegetated islands and perimeter.  Curbs are removed and water flows into these depressed vegetated areas (i.e. bioswales).  The runoff is filtered and absorbed by the plants that are required under the Village’s landscaping ordinance.  Storm drains are placed in the vegetated areas and collect water not absorbed. By coordinating its landscaping and stormwater management requirements, Village B dramatically reduces the volume (and pollutant load) of stormwater entering their system.  As a result, the system has less wear and a greater capacity to handle flash flood events. Step 2: Shift Your ExpensesIn addition to maintenance costs, local governments must budget funds for pollution prevention. Most storm sewer systems are federally regulated (“Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems” or “MS4s”) under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”).  Among other requirements, local governments must choose from a menu of best management practices to reduce the amount of dirt, grease, salt and other pollutants that reach the storm sewer.  For many communities, street sweeping, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, is the pollution reduction method of choice. Street sweeping, however, is not the only option.  In fact, it is not even the preferred option for state and federal EPA regulators.  In the past few years, IEPA and USEPA have repeatedly noted that on-site retention using vegetated swales is the preferred best management practice when compared to street sweeping.  Agency guidelines are now pushing local governments to follow Village B’s lead.  By doing so, local governments not only gain the benefits of reduced sewer maintenance, but can reduce street sweeping efforts, saving additional money.  For example, in the City of Naperville, Illinois, a reduction in the scope and frequency of street sweeping is projected to save $170,000 annually.Step 3:  Educate the PublicTo gather support for your shifting regulations, make sure to educate the public. For landowners, the shift in landscaping, grading and curb requirements is good for their long-term bottom line. First, most applicants are required to grade parking lots and install vegetated islands under existing codes. The new ordinance simply shifts the direction of the grading and type of vegetation.  The cost of installing bioswales instead of curbed, vegetated (and watered) islands is likely a wash. Second, remind the public that the modified zoning code is designed to reduce flooding. In Illinois, flooding is the greatest threat to both residential and commercial property. By reducing this threat, local governments are reducing flood-related expenses for private landowners.In the end, an efficient stormwater management policy will reduce government spending, reduce property taxes, reduce flood losses, and please state and federal regulators (who control future funding). Before cutting much needed community services to repair your budget, look at how you manage stormwater.  Are you taking advantage of these reductions or washing your money away? Post Authored by Brent Denzin, Ancel Glink

goinfast00 wrote on April 24, 2012 at 8:04 am