Howard County Council needs to structure a fair stormwater fee [Letter]

I am writing about the bill by Councilman Fox proposing changes to the stormwater management fee. Having read about the many issues that have arisen as counties try to implement this fee, I can appreciate Councilman Fox's motivation, but I am opposed to this bill and urge you not to pass it.

There are many problems with stormwater management both locally, with many areas suffering flooding or standing water, and regionally, including pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. Stormwater management is an important governmental function involving prudent land use planning as well as public works infrastructure, and it needs improvement.

My understanding is that the stormwater management fee has two purposes: to provide funds for the government to improve stormwater management and to motivate property owners to improve the runoff on their own properties. As such, the amount a property owner pays is supposed to reflect the amount of runoff they are causing and to encourage them to act to minimize it by initiatives like planting trees that will decrease the runoff.

As for all fees and taxes, the goal should be to make the fee fair and effective, and this goal should be the only criterion for structuring the fee. Making exceptions for special groups like nonprofits will decrease their motivation to help solve the problem and is unfair to other property owners for whom the fee may represent just as much of a financial hardship.

It appears that the stormwater management fee was imposed by the state legislature without thinking through how best to implement it. The variety of implementation plans by the various counties is so diverse as to verge on the chaotic. Please do not contribute to the chaos by passing legislation that will create unfair disparities among property owners and further hinder accomplishing the goal of the legislation. 

Angie Boyter

Ellicott City

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