If Question J passes, the City Council will be tasked with adopting a stormwater fee to be paid by every private property owner in the city. Public works officials say homeowners could wind up paying an additional $40 to $80 a year on their quarterly water bills.
Fees on commercial property would be based on how much land is covered by pavement and roof, which increase the amount of rainfall that washes off the site. Commercial property owners could cut fees by reducing pavement or taking other steps to reduce storm runoff, such as planting rain gardens or green roofs.
A new state law requires Baltimore City and Maryland's nine largest counties to begin charging a stormwater remediation fee by July. The money to be raised is intended to help the city meet its obligations under the federally directed bay restoration effort to reduce polluted runoff carrying sewage, pet waste, fertilizer and dirt.
The fee is intended to provide funds to clean up Baltimore's harbor and local streams, which are now cluttered with litter and unsafe to swim in or often even to touch, especially after a heavy rain.
If voters don't approve the measure, the city still would be required to impose the fee. But in that case, city officials warn, the charges on property owners could actually be higher, because without the stormwater utility, the city would be limited in its ability to borrow money to finance the required cleanup projects.
Another measure on the ballot would require certain city agencies to be audited every four years. The City Council approved a bill to do so this year, a compromise measure because some wanted more frequent audits.
Another measure would let members of minority political parties serve on city boards and commissions as minority representatives. Independents and members of all minority political parties can now serve, but cannot fill seats required by law to be filled by members of the second largest political party. Under the charter amendment, anyone who is not a member of the majority party could fill those seats.
Voters also are being asked to approve borrowing money for institutions including the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the Walters Art Museum, the Maryland Science Center and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Wheeler contributed to this article.
City voters will decide whether to:
•Create a utility to manage stormwater
•Align the city election cycle with the presidential cycle
•Allow members of minority political parties to serve on city boards and commissions as minority representatives
•Require certain city agencies to be audited every four years
•Borrow money for a variety of institutions, including the Walters Art Museum and the Maryland Zoo