Last Updated: Apr 27th, 2015 - 11:04:56

Prince George approves stormwater fee
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Mar 26, 2014, 11:36

PRINCE GEORGE — Prince George residents and property owners will now have to pay an annual stormwater fee following a new ordinance passed by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night.

In a 3-2 vote, with supervisors Alan Carmichael and Henry Parker dissenting, the new ordinance will impose an annual fee of $36 for all residences, and will differ for commercial parcels depending on the acreage.

The fee will be $180 for commercial parcels less than two acres, $240 for parcels between two and five acres and $300 for any commercial parcel that is more than five acres.

State mandates require all Virginia jurisdictions to maintain their stormwater drainage systems up to a set of standards, but the state does not provide the funding to do so, therefore an annual fee would provide direct revenue to maintain Prince George’s aging stormwater infrastructure.

In addition to aging facilities in certain subdivisions creating runoff issues, the Virginia Department of Transportation only deals with stormwater runoff within their right-of-way, creating a lack of maintenance for many outfall ditches in Prince George, according to Julie Walton, the director of community development and code compliance for Prince George.

Because nobody is required to fix or maintain outfall ditches or channels, the ones that are old and failing continue to deteriorate and lead to flooding on many residents’ properties, Walton said.

“At this time, the county is not able to help with any of those situations. We’re not able to help the citizens,” Walton said prior to the board’s vote on the fee.

The board has delayed a decision in regards to this fee for multiple months, continuously amending the ordinance to be more equitable for county citizens and waiting for possible action taken by this year’s General Assembly to affect the need for implementation of the fee.

Previously, the fee was advertised at an annual cost of $50 for all residents and $300 for all commercial parcels, until chairman Bill Robertson brought this new proposal before the board on Tuesday.

Supervisor William Gandel said that he thought the new proposal was the most equitable plan of all the stormwater fee ordinances that had been introduced to the board.

Property owners can take alternative measures to become exempt from the stormwater fee by implementing certain mechanisms for runoff reduction.

If no parcels were to be exempt from the stormwater fee, it is expected to pull in $462,948 in revenue for the county, however Robertson said that it is likely to be considerably less because many parcels will be exempt.

Gandel, who has long been an advocate for implementing a method of fund exchange to provide for stormwater maintenance, said that the problems created by stormwater have gone unattended to for long enough.

“I just know and feel that we have to do something about these [issues], because they’re not going to get any better. They’re going to get worse,” Gandel said.

Robertson said that he doesn’t like imposing a stringent stormwater fee upon the county, but understands the necessity for it before letting stormwater conditions continue to worsen.

“In 10 years,  there will be people sitting here at this board that will be making fun of us because of things we are doing today that we think are extremely stringent, that then will be considered lax, and they will wonder why we allowed it to happen today,” Robertson said.

Supervisor Henry Parker said that he favored rectifying the stormwater issues that exist in the county, but leaned towards a less expensive, simpler cost for residents, and said that some problematic areas in the county, including a large ravine along Route 10, will cost much more than revenue from the stormwater fee can feasibly pay to repair.

Parker advised that a vote on the implementation of a fee be delayed until a further date.

Supervisor Alan Carmichael said that the proposed fee was a little “aggressive” for an initial utility cost, and suggested that the fee be started lower and subject to change down the road if the board saw fit.

The stormwater fee will be split into two payments that coincide with real estate tax payments in June and December.

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