The Anne Arundel County Council on Monday lowered the new stormwater fees to $1 for all nonprofit organizations.

Previously, the county charged the nominal $1 fee to religious nonprofits and churches, but the American Civil Liberties Union objected this summer, saying religious groups shouldn't be treated differently than other groups.

The vote to lower the fee was 4-3, with support from Council Chairman Jerry Walker, Councilman Daryl Jones, Councilman Derek Fink and Councilman Richard Ladd.

Voting against the bill were Councilman John Grasso, Councilman Jamie Benoit and Councilman Chris Trumbauer.

Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, objected to the discount for nonprofits, saying it was an attempt to whittle away at the stormwater fees, which will be used to fund projects that combat polluted stormwater runoff.

With every exemption or discount, he said, "it makes it harder on everyone else that has to pay the bill."

Under the stormwater fees approved earlier this year, residential property owners in Anne Arundel pay $34, $85 or $170 per year, based on the type of house they own. The fees are phased in over three years.

Nonresidential property owners are charged based on the amount of impervious surfaces on their properties. There is a cap on fees, which are phased in if they amount to more than $500 per year.

On Nov. 18, the County Council will hold a public hearing on a proposal to roll the stormwater fee back to $1 for all property owners.

At Monday's meeting, councilmen also continued to debate restricting cell phone twoers at public schools. They clarified a bill before them so that it would require towers to be at least 200 feet from the property line and at least 300 feet from the main school building or portable classrooms.

They also began a discussion of changing health insurance benefits for county government retirees. There are two bills pending before the council to scale back the health benefits in retirement as a way to save taxpayer money. County Executive Laura Neuman has said the county can't afford to pay for the current retiree health benefits.

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