Anne Arundel council finalizes stormwater fees

After five months of meetings and hearings, work by two county executives, one veto and a veto override, Anne Arundel County officials have finalized a rate structure for state-mandated stormwater fees.

The County Council on Monday passed the final two in a series of bills tweaking the fees, which will be charged to property owners to pay for projects to reduce stormwater pollution that harms the Chesapeake Bay.

Residential homeowners will pay $34, $85 or $170, depending on the type of house they own. According to the county, 72 percent of homeowners will pay $85.

Business property owners will be charged based on the amount of impervious surfaces on their land, while nonprofits and houses of worship will get breaks on the fee.

Anne Arundel drew attention on the stormwater fee — dubbed the "rain tax" by critics — after County Executive Laura Neuman vetoed the fee in April in one of her first major actions as executive.

At the time, Neuman said property owners weren't fully aware the fees were coming. She also implored County Council members to reduce the fees and phase them in.

The council immediately overrode Neuman's veto but then spent May and June working on several bills adjusting the fees. Key changes included phasing in the fees, lowering the cap for commercial properties and reducing the rate for nonprofits.

Monday night, the council unanimously passed bills to move some homeowners from the $170 category to the $85 category and to add an explanation of the fee on property tax bills.

"These are reasonable measures to make these bills a little more palatable to the public," said Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat who sponsored most of the changes.

The initial set of fees passed by the council in a 4-3 vote earlier this year largely reflected a proposal from former County Executive John R. Leopold. Leopold proposed the fees in January while he was on trial for misconduct in office. He was found guilty and later resigned, leading to Neuman's appointment as his replacement.

Under state legislation approved last year, Anne Arundel, eight other counties and Baltimore City have until July 1 to approve a fee on property owners to pay for stormwater projects aimed at curbing pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Uncontrolled stormwater runoff carries sediment, nutrients and other pollutants into the bay, rivers and streams.

Arundel stormwater fees

•Townhouses, condominiums: $34.

•Most single-family homes: $85.

•Homes in rural and agriculture zones: $170.

•Nonresidential properties: $85 per 2,940 square feet of impervious surface, with a cap if it reaches 25 percent of the annual property tax.

•Nonresidential properties owned by nonprofits: $680 per acre of impervious surface.

•Churches and religious properties: $1.

•Private schools: $170.

•Private airports: $170.

All amounts are annual. Residential fees will be phased in: 60 percent the first year, 80 percent the second year and 100 percent the third year and thereafter. Nonresidential fees will be phased in only if they amount to $500 or more per year.

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