• The Howard County Council, in a divided vote last week, approved a plan under which the average residential property owner will be charged about $105.

The council set the fee at $15 per 500 square feet of impervious surface for three years, meaning a property owner with 7,000 square feet of impervious surface can expect to pay $210 a year.

• Anne Arundel County has proposed a fee of $34 per year for owners of townhouses and condominiums, $85 for single-family homes and $170 for homes in rural and agricultural areas. The bill, which could be changed, would require nonresidential properties, including businesses and churches, to pay about $1,323 per impervious acre per year.

• In Carroll County, officials are planning to propose a rate structure this month.

City officials say Baltimore's fee is designed to hit larger customers harder. The administration says 88 percent of property owners — mainly single family homes — generate only 33 percent of the stormwater pollution, while the city's largest property owners account for 67 percent of pollution.

City officials stress that not implementing the fee would not only run counter to state law but hurt the city's attempts to keep pace with the rate at which the water system's pipes are crumbling.

The money from the stormwater fee also is a key part of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blakes' 10-year financial plan aimed at reducing a $750 million projected shortfall. Money from the fee would free up revenue to help reduce property taxes, officials point out.

More than $150 million is needed over the next seven years to pay for stormwater infrastructure, including projects along Race Street, Patapsco Avenue, North Point Road, Pulaski Highway and Harris Creek, according to city officials.

"The state's not giving us any money," says Marcia Collins, legislative liaison for the city's Department of Public Works. "The federal government isn't giving us any money. So, they're saying to the locals, 'You need to take care of this.'"

But opposition has come from several fronts.

Jeffrey A. Fraley, vice president of the Fraley Corp., a South Baltimore-based industrial contracting company and scrap yard, says his property tax bill is $3,000 annually, but he would face $4,000 in stormwater fees under the proposal.

"These numbers do not add up and do not incentivize me to remain a Baltimore city commercial property owner," he wrote in a letter to the City Council.

David C. McKenzie, vice president of Liquid Transfer Terminals Inc. in Curtis Bay, said his company pays about $58,000 in property taxes and could get hit with nearly $44,000 in stormwater fees. That fee is too high, McKenzie argues, because his company treats its own stormwater.

"A facility that manages its own stormwater is not treated any differently than a facility that does nothing to mitigate its stormwater pollution," he said.

The Baltimore Jewish Council said nonprofits also are getting hit with fees that are too high.

"Our domestic violence organizations, if they are forced to pay $2,000 then that is $2,000 less dollars they can provide for domestic violence services," said Cailey Lacklair, the organization's director of government relations. "They may be able to pay, but you're going to see fewer services put back in the community."

City officials say they are considering a series of credits, including for residents who participate inclean-up events and take steps to reduce their pollutant runoff. Businesses that process 100 percent of their own stormwater would receive a 45 percent credit, officials said.

One South Baltimore business — Rukert Terminals Corp., the Canton stevedoring and warehousing company — estimates its bill would be in excess of $300,000.

"The impact on those businesses is monumental," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, vice chair of the legislative committee considering the proposal. "We're talking about people who are getting charged thousands an acre on this fee. Some don't even go through the city's system. This is hundreds of thousands of dollars."

In the coming weeks, city officials say they hope to post online an interactive website that would show residents their potential fee based on an aerial view of their property.

A City Council work session on the proposal is scheduled for Tuesday. A public hearing is scheduled for April 17.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Jonathan Pitts, Alison Knezevich, Allan Vought and Blair Ames contributed to this article.



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