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Carroll faces fine for stormwater fee implementation

Laws and LegislationLocal GovernmentRenovation

Carroll County is facing fines of up to $10,000 a day after the Maryland Department of Environment and the Attorney General's Office reviewed the county's efforts to avoid levying a stormwater fee on residents.

The Board of Carroll County Commissioners voted unanimously June 27 to adopt a resolution creating a Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund to be funded by grants and county dollars instead of creating a stormwater fee paid by area businesses and residents.

The state's Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, signed into law in 2012, 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.

In a letter to Commissioners President Doug Howard, Assistant Attorney General Paul De Santis wrote, "The Department [MDE] believes that the deficiencies in Carroll County's Watershed Protection and Restoration Program are serious and we are prepared to file a formal enforcement action to address these deficiencies."

To avoid litigation, De Santis asked the county to meet with the state to pursue a settlement.

Howard said Monday night that county commissioners plan to meet with state officials in the near future to discuss how Carroll has decided to address the stormwater fee issue.

A meeting date has not been set, according to county spokeswoman Roberta Windham.

De Santis' letter states that although Carroll created a stormwater fund to be funded through direct allocations from the county general fund, the funding mechanism does not comply with the requirements of state law. State law required Carroll to enact a stormwater remediation fee by July 1.

"The County's failure to enact a stormwater remediation fee constitutes a violation of Title 4, Subtitle 2 of the Environment Article and subjects Carroll County to civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each day of violation," De Santis said in his letter. "In addition, the Department [MDE] is authorized to seek injunctive relief in a civil action or issue an order requiring the County to take corrective actions."

Commissioners said in June that they believed Carroll didn't need to implement a stormwater fee on residents because their current funding of stormwater projects was appropriate.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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