Carroll County residents and businesses will not be required to pay a stormwater runoff fee after the Board of County Commissioners Thursday voted unanimously to adopt a resolution creating a Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund to be funded by grants and county dollars.
The state's Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, signed into law last year, requires the state's nine largest counties and Baltimore City to collect fees to pay for stormwater management as well as stream and wetland restoration projects. The projects are aimed at improving water quality and reducing phosphorous and nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay.
The law has been dubbed the "rain tax" by its opponents.
The commissioners, who tasked the Carroll County Environmental Advisory Council to research potential fee structures over the last seven weeks, have decided that the county's current funding for stormwater projects is adequate.
The Board of Carroll County Commissioners put out a news release Thursday evening announcing their decision entitled, "Rain Remains 'Free' in Carroll County."
"We really don't need to impose this stupid, silly, idiotic tax, is that right Phil?" Commissioner Haven Shoemaker asked Phil Hagar, county director of land use, planning and development after Hagar summarized the county's proposed resolution during the commissioners meeting.
"Because we've already been doing that which this tax seeks to impose, we've been doing it for years," Shoemaker said.
Commissioner Richard Rothschild proposed his own resolution, the Declaration of Carroll County Policy, which he said would gave Carroll the legal basis to defend itself from the state if it challenged Carroll for not properly instituting the fee.
"If you (the state) come after us, we're prepared to go to a federal judge," he said.
Commissioners president Doug Howard disagreed, saying Rothschild's resolution put the county in the state's bullseye regarding counties who are trying avoid implementing the fee.
Rothschild withdrew his resolution, instead asking that it be attached to the county resolution as an addendum.
While the county passed a resolution sparing its residents from the fee, Howard said it is a concern of the board that the state may not find Carroll's implemention of the law appropriate.