Stormwater impact fees announced

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com

Specific numbers for stormwater pollutant impact fees scheduled to be billed for the first time at the end of June were announced at a special meeting of Greencastle Borough Council Thursday evening.

About 60 community members spent nearly three hours listening, asking questions and making comments before council voted 4-2 on two motions, one creating a utility to administer stormwater issues and the other establishing stormwater impact fees. Voting "yes" to both motions were Joel Amsley, Larry Faight, Steve Miller and Frank Webster. Duane Kinzer and Wade Burkholder voted against both motions and Matthew Smith was absent.

The stormwater pollutant impact fee for each property is now online at the borough's website:



The borough has been working for about a year to figure out how to pay for Chesapeake Bay water cleanup mandates and the provisions of its MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permit. The stormwater utility will administer not only the water cleanup measures, but all stormwater management in the borough, such as a project being discussed to ease flooding in the Orchard development.

The bulk of the funding is needed for the sediment reduction project chosen as the most cost-effective way to meet the Bay cleanup standards and a re-evaluation of what that means translates to somewhat lower costs than have been discussed for several months. The borough is looking at a joint stream bank restoration project with Antrim Township.

Eden Ratliff, borough manager, and Lorraine Hohl, assistant manager, have determined the borough needs to lower its sediment load on the Chesapeake Bay by 93,805 pounds in the first permit cycle rather than 142,217 pounds.

That will reduce the annual needs of the stormwater fund from $780,000 to $630,000, including administrative costs and $65,568 a year for 10 years in debt service for the Orchard project.

The budget is supported by the stormwater fee, which is based on impervious area of each property. Steve Miller, borough council president and a retired engineer, mapped the impervious area, which includes roofs, driveways, patios and other areas where water runs off and does not sink in.

 The numbers 

The impact fee is $5.36 per $100 square feet of impervious area and the average annual residential fee is about $43 per quarter or just over $172 a year. The majority of residential fees range from $26 to $50 a quarter. The other big residential ranges are $11 to $25 and $51 to $100 per quarter.

"It's terrible we have to do this, but the cost is not going to go away," said Councilman Larry Faight.

The Greencastle-Antrim School District is facing the highest bill, around $47,000 a year.

Brian Harbaugh of JCH Associates said he's looking at a bill of $14,000 a year in Greencastle. He also owns a business and lives in Antrim Township, which also faces cleanup mandates and township supervisors are weighing fee options, and expects the school district's fee to translate into higher taxes.

The annual fee for Lumber Direct will be around $12,000, according to Mike Stenger, who said, that's "not going to put me out of business, but it hurts."

The borough itself is not exempt from the fee, with the annual payment of $5,000 for the borough and $2,700 for the water authority plant, Ratliff said.

The mayor 

Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. is not totally on board with action taken by council and planned to announce his next step at Monday night's borough council meeting, which took place after the publication deadline for today's Echo Pilot.

He asked for an amendment to the storm water utility ordinance to indicate it was created in response to unfunded mandates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection. A motion for the amendment by Councilman Larry Faight died for lack of a second.

Thomas also questions whether it would have been better to borrow money rather than set a fee.

The mayor does not have a vote, but does have 10 days after council's vote to sign the ordinance. His options are to sign the ordinance, let it go through unsigned or veto it.

Other information 

  • There were a number of questions about how to get credit for runoff reduction measures — such a installing a rain barrel or tearing down a shed and replacing it with grass — and appealing an impervious area calculation. Those systems will be established before the first bills go out at the end of June and will be discussed by the public facilities committee, probably next week.
  • Because most of the fees are the result of an unfunded federal mandate, the borough has written to state and national officials about the problems it is causing. Harbaugh encouraged others are the meeting to do the same.

"You need to contact your elected officials and if they don't do their job, vote them out. That's our voice," he said.

  • Some concerns were expressed higher bills this year as the borough is trying to bring in a full year of revenue in just six months.

If that isn't done, the payment schedule will fall behind and people will have to pay more in ensuing years, Miller said.

Town hall meetings 

Ratliff and Hohl are hosting town hall meetings to provide information regarding the stormwater utility and the fee and to answer questions.

Meetings will be held at borough hall, 60 N. Washington St., on:

Thursday, June 6, 10 a.m.

Thursday, June 13, 7 p.m.

For more information, call 717-597-7143.