A public hearing on a proposed stormwater remediation fee turned into a hearing largely for Harford County Council members Tuesday night.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti and Councilman Dion Guthrie, both Democrats who have opposing views on the state-mandated legislation, brought their own presentations to defend their stances.
The bill, which was not voted on Tuesday, would establish a flat fee of $125, much lower than the $400 fee originally proposed, for all residential and agricultural properties except apartments.
This legislation would also impose a fee of $7 per 500 square feet of impervious area for all commercial and industrial properties and apartment buildings, mobile home parks, maritime facilities and property owned by fraternal organizations, religious institutions or health care facilities.
Public works director Tim Whittie explained it would have less of an impact on agricultural properties because the fee would be applied only to the home, not the farmland.
People would also be allowed to appeal the fee or get credit for other forms of environmental restoration, such as rain gardens.
The cost to treat stormwater is between $20,000 and $40,000 per acre, and the county would need to spend a total of $90 million to address the state mandate, Whittie said.
He said 72,000 residential properties will be affected. A hardship exemption will also be available. Residents would be charged the fee as part of their annual or biannual tax bill.
Lisanti, who has been executive director of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway, played two videos on environmental stewardship in Lancaster, Pa., and Havre de Grace, showing the importance of protecting the Chesapeake Bay and the measures being taken to do so.
She said a lot of information in newspapers and online that has been exchanged is perpetuating inaccuracy, explaining the need to address the Chesapeake Bay's total maximum daily loads came to light because the federal Environmental Protection Agency "failed to do its job."
She said the EPA recognized that local jurisdictions are better at knowing their local watershed areas.
"It is important to put this money in a lockbox and not use it for purposes that aren't stated," Lisanti added about the revenue from the bill.
Guthrie, meanwhile, said all jurisdictions should pay the same amount toward the fee and rebuffed Lisanti's efforts to rebuff him.
He said it is "mind boggling" the different fees paid by those in the state.
"If we're all in this together, we should all pay the same amount together," he said.
Councilmen Joe Woods and Chad Shrodes, both Republicans, said they also hope to find ways to either not pass the bill or lower the fee.
Council President Billy Boniface asked Whittie if there is a way to push off its implementation, which Whittie strongly opposed, saying not starting it July 1 would cause the county to spend more money.
"The longer we delay, the more expensive things get," Whittie said. "We have a five-year time frame to meet the requirements."
Boniface asked why the county has five years.
"Nothing in this legislation speaks to that," he said. "That's a regulation by [the Maryland Department of the Environment] but there's nothing in the bill that lets them do that."