Howard County Business Group Offers Stormwater Fee Recommendations

A Baltimore Sun article (2016-11-15) reported that a local Howard County business group has offered recommendations on how to address the County’s stormwater management requirements under its Phase 1 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, including restructuring the county’s stormwater remediation fee. Like other MS4 jurisdictions, Howard has struggled to meet the permit’s 20 percent remediation requirement for existing impervious surfaces. According to the article, the group was created through executive order by County Executive Allan Kittleman with the support of Council Member Jon Weinstein. From the article:

Local businesses, many of whom have long decried stormwater fees as unfair and asymmetric, are pushing the county to craft financial incentives to motivate commercial property owners to manage stormwater runoff in the county. …

“Businesses don’t have any reason to do it other than their conscience,” said Mark Southerland, chairman of the [Howard County Commercial Stormwater Solutions Work Group]. …

The group recommended incentives like reducing or eliminating stormwater fees, waive parking space requirements and placing the financial burden of projects on the county.

The County’s plight is challenging because many stormwater remediation projects must be done on private property in order to meet the 2,000 acre treatment requirement by 2019:

Most of the projects, nearly 70 percent, are on private property where owners grant limited access and have little to no reason to set aside valuable land for stormwater management. …

“If we did everything we could possible do on the land the county own, we would still the need private sector’s help. We really haven’t figured out a way to work them,” said Jim Caldwell, director of the county’s Office of Community Sustainability. …

But waiving stormwater fees is not enough to cover the cost of stormwater projects, Caldwell said.

The significant project costs and competition for a limited pool of contractors adds further difficulty:

Caldwell said state regulators must realize the challenge before local jurisdictions, who are competing to meet goals of individual projects that can cost around $200,000.

“Between the cost of it and the competition between other counties, you run out of contractors, you run out of steel, the cost gets higher,” Caldwell said. “What we’re basically saying is that we want to get there, but the challenge is overwhelmingly difficult.”

Useful Links

Howard County Commercial Stormwater Solutions Work Group Report