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Clean water at heart of controversial fee

The bills are in the mail, and Marylanders in the urban and near-urban counties are beginning a costly and long-term investment in clean water. Or not ("Balto. Co. companies question new fee," July 11).

A short year ago, the stormwater fee requirement was enacted by the General Assembly and signed into law with an effective date of July 1, 2013. The state regulators anticipated that the timeline would give the local jurisdictions the opportunity to develop fee schedules to meet their individualized needs. That strategy may have backfired.

Initially, the state's fee requirement was either under the radar, or perhaps even viewed as a consensus item. But as the local jurisdictions took up their assigned rate-setting tasks, the fee requirement morphed into another in a series of divisive measures loosely identified by some as unwanted state intrusion into local land use and development policy. The debate has been intensive, but not very enlightening. In particular, the "tax versus fee" discussion has done little to advance the laudable, and presumably shared, goal of clean water.

A year later, the public is confronted with a bewildering patchwork of fees among the jurisdictions that have acted. By way of example, Carroll County is looking to other sources of funding; Frederick County is billing a penny per household; Anne Arundel County revised its proposed fee after a veto by a newly-appointed county executive; and Howard County may be altering its fee even before it is implemented. And the jurisdictions have equally diverse calculation and credit methodologies.

So it should come as no surprise that some folks want the General Assembly to revisit the fee requirement in the next session. Whatever happens, clean water will still be an important public health need and the associated costs will still be astronomical.

Steve LeGendre, Reisterstown

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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