Some IOW citizens feel fee unfairPublished 10:31am Wednesday, April 10, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
CARRSVILLE—Isle of Wight County residents who attended the information session about the Stormwater Management Program on Monday evening quickly made their concerns known.
Among the 20 people at the skating rink on Walters Highway, a few were quite vocal that a plan to create a Stormwater Utility Fee was unfair, particularly to residents in the southern part of the county.
Frank Haltom, assistant director to General Services, made the presentation. Director Eddie Wrightson and Carrsville District Supervisor Rex Alphin were also available to address questions.
Haltom first gave the definition of stormwater as any flow of water over hard surfaces, such as rooftops, asphalt and concrete, or what is channeled in natural or man-made conveyance systems during and after rain or snow melt.
All three men had to repeatedly say that mandates regarding clean water are coming from state and federal levels, such as the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“This is not a choice,” Wrightson stressed.
“The county didn’t sit around and dream this up,” Wrightson had earlier told The Tidewater News.
But several people such as Kathy Daughtrey of Carrsville, openly questioned such explanations, claiming the county government was indeed behind it.
All localities in the Commonwealth will be required to administer the SMP by Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Neighboring municipalities such as Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk and Virginia Beach are already doing so and have Stormwater Utility fees.
“We’re just catching up,” Haltom said.
The county’s engineering section already oversees erosion and sediment control. Whenever there’s any new development, land disturbance permits must be obtained and best management practices must be followed. Three other duties are drainage maintenance, the Stormwater Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act and the compliance with the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit, known as MS4. Added to the division’s responsibilities will be the SMP and Total Maximum Daily Load programs. The TMDL is concerned with pollutants such as bacteria, nutrients such as fertilizers and sediment.
To administer all these programs will require more resources and personnel, said Haltom, adding that a major concern is how can they be administered and funded.
Two alternatives have been considered. To generate money through higher property taxes could be easy to carry out and cost little administratively. But tax-exempt properties, fluctuating revenue based on property values and lack of equity are the drawbacks.
The stormwater fees, already used regionally, would promote best management practices, be consistent and based on the Equivalent Residential Unit. One ERU is the average impervious cover in square fee for a residence. Impervious cover includes rooftops, asphalt and concrete.
The department finds that a typical residence in the county measures 1,650 square feet, and impervious area measures 420 square feet, added together equaling 2,070 square feet. This was rounded down to 2,050 square feet as one ERU.
All residential and agricultural properties would pay for one ERU. All other properties, such as shopping centers or industries would have their impervious areas measured and pay no less than one ERU.
One disadvantages to the fee is the perception that it is a “rain tax” and would need ordinance adoption and more public outreach.
So far, the county’s engineering department favors the ERU measurement as being more fair overall.
“I have a big problem with the fee,” said Daughtrey, adding that she’d rather the property tax method be used.
“You have flipped out,” she added. “It’s not equitable.”
“Everything in this area is poor. We get nothing,” said another man who was not identified.
Haltom and Wrightson explained that if the county doesn’t comply, there will be expensive penalties from both the state and federal governments.
“The do-nothing approach won’t work,” said Wrightson.
A presentation will be made to supervisors on Thursday, April 18. After that, a public hearing is anticipated.
More information can be found in the March 2013 agenda of the Board of Supervisors meeting, which is found on the county website, www.co.isle-of-wight.va.us.