Baltimore County proposes scale for state-mandated stormwater fee

Baltimore County homeowners would pay a fee between $18 and $36 a year for stormwater management under a plan to meet new state requirements designed to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

Legislation to impose the fee was introduced Monday, with a County Council vote scheduled April 15.

The fee structure, proposed by the administration of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, is an attempt to comply with a law the General Assembly passed last year requiring Maryland's 10 largest jurisdictions to collect a stormwater management fee to help reduce the amount of pollutants entering the bay.

In Baltimore County, people who own a single-family detached residence would pay $36 per year under the proposed fee structure. Those who own a townhouse would pay $18, and condominium owners would pay $29. The fee would be included on property tax bills, beginning with those issued later this year.

"Baltimore County has more than 200 miles of waterfront, and I think residents do value a clean Chesapeake Bay and clean water," said County Council Chairman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat.

He said the county "understands that the economy is pretty tough, and the average taxpayer doesn't have it easy," but "for the average resident. this cost, which is a state-mandated cost, is about $3 a month."

"The county executive directed us to keep this as low as possible" for homeowners, said Vince Gardina, head of the county's Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability.

Administration officials said the residential fee is lower than those proposed in other counties and the city. Kamenetz proposed a flat fee for homeowners so that residents don't have "to struggle with some complex formula," said Don Mohler, the executive's chief of staff.

Other jurisdictions around Baltimore are also weighing how to impose the fee. For example, Anne Arundel County has proposed a fee of $34 per year for owners of townhouses and condominiums, $85 for single-family homes and $170 for homes in rural and agricultural areas.

Harford County's fee would be $175 for residential and agricultural properties, except for apartments. The Howard County Council is deliberating on the issue, but has not settled on a fee structure.

In Baltimore City, the proposed fee would depend on the size of a person's home, and officials say it likely will range from $48 to $144 annually.

While homeowners in Baltimore County would pay a flat fee, the bill for commercial properties would depend on the amount of impervious surface at the site. Administration officials estimate an apartment complex with 127,680 square feet of impervious surface on a 5-acre lot would be charged about $4,405, while a shopping mall with 871,200 square feet of impervious surface on a 25-acre lot would face a fee of more than $30,000 per year.

Owners of commercial properties could get credits to pay for up to 80 percent of the fee, depending on what steps they already have taken to manage stormwater runoff, Gardina said.

The county estimates that it must spend more than $33 million a year to meet the state requirements, through projects such as stream restoration, protection of shorelines and repairs to stormwater management facilities. Officials plan to use $10 million in funds already designated for water-quality improvement projects, leaving about $23 million to make up with the fee.

Quirk said council members are hoping to learn more about the fee structure, and will discuss it at a work session prior to the scheduled April 15 vote.

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