MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp testified in opposition to legislation (HB 656/SB 472) that would mandatorily subject county properties to municipal stormwater charges before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 14, 2017, and the House Environment and Transportation Committee on February 15. However, Knapp stressed in his oral testimony that MACo and affected counties were working with the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and their respective municipalities to arrive at a solution to the issue. HB 656 is sponsored by Delegate Kumar Barve. SB 472 is sponsored by Senator Ronald Young. The bill is a MML legislative priority.
HB 656/SB 472 provide that a municipality that has established a dedicated stormwater management fund and municipal stormwater charge under § 4-204 of the Environment Article that affects property owned by a municipality may also levy the charge against property located within the municipality that is owned by the State, a unit of State government, a county, a local school system, or an institution of higher education. From the MACo testimony on SB 472:
The core concept of a stormwater charge authorized under § 4-204 or a stormwater remediation fee established under § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article is to address runoff issues created by property owners and assist local governments in meeting their Phase I or Phase II Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements. The fees are not intended to create redundancies or place “double burdens” on governments, education entities, or taxpayers. However, SB 472 does not acknowledge actual mitigation responsibility, county government parity, or the flexibility to enter into other forms of mitigation agreements.
Actual Mitigation Responsibility Not Acknowledged SB 472 mandates that governmental and educational property owners pay a municipal stormwater charge regardless of whether the municipality is actually responsible for the property under its MS4 permit. This requirement makes absolutely no sense if, for example, a county is responsible under its own MS4 permit for its own property, or school property, located in a municipality. In such a circumstance, imposing the municipal fee on the county’s property is both redundant and lacks a reasonable rationale – the county would be paying a fee to the municipality for mitigation work that would be performed by the county.
County property may also be subject to stormwater mitigation requirements under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and applicable local TMDLs. Again, counties should not have to pay a fee for mitigation work for which they are already responsible.
Lack of Flexibility SB 472 mandates that a governmental or educational property owner pay a municipal stormwater charge regardless of local circumstances. Some counties have entered into alternative arrangements to mitigate their own properties or provide other assistance to municipalities. The bill would needlessly upend those agreements and impose a “one size fits all” solution in jurisdictions where there is no current problem.
Lack of Parity The bill purports to establish an “everyone should pay” requirement that is based on a principle of fairness. However, the bill’s provisions only affect governmental and school property located inside municipalities. Federal, State, school, and municipal property located within a county are not subject to the bill, creating an inherent unfairness. Neither does the bill reference county stormwater remediation fees established under § 4-202.1 of the Environment Article, which were also put into place as a means of MS4 assistance – something the bill allegedly seeks to address.
Knapp stated that if the three areas of concern noted in his testimony were addressed, MACo could drop its opposition to the bill. MML, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Takoma Park, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the bill. The University of Maryland System testified that it would support the bill with amendments addressing MACo’s concerns.