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Almond, Marks Want Delay in Stormwater Fee Vote

The bill would impose fees on residents, businesses and nonprofits for federally mandated efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

At least two members of the Baltimore County Council say they would like to delay a vote on proposed stormwater management fees.

Vicki Almond and David Marks both said Tuesday they would like to delay the vote for a month.

"Considering the enormity of all this and the information that we have I would personally like us to have a little more time to come up with some amendments and really study this even further," said Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat.

"I think three weeks really isn't enough to digest all of this," Almond said, speaking of a briefing the council received last month.

Almond added that County Executive Kevin Kamenetz developed the new fees without involving the council or holding any public meetings. The council, in its budget message to Kamenetz, asked for the inclusion of the council and public before the fees were set.

The proposed bill would give the county executive the power to set the new fees by executive order—something Almond said she questions.

Two weeks ago, the Howard County Council passed similar legislation proposed by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. The council added 17 amendments to the original bill.

A delay in the vote appears unlikely.

Vince Gardina, director of the county Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, said any delay in voting for the bill would delay implementation of the program and cause issues with the fiscal 2014 budget that is expected to be introduced next week.

"If the council were to table the bill it couldn't be enacted in time for July 1 and it also would impact, possibly, the budget," Gardina said.

"We're pretty pressed for time," said Council Chairman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat. "We're up against a July 1 deadline.

"There will be a vote [next week]," Quirk said. "But at the same time I respect Councilwoman Almond's concerns.

Gardina and County Attorney Michael Field said setting them by executive order would give the county flexibility to adjust the fees as needed without needed another bill.

The fee is required because of state legislation passed last year to bring the state into compliance with federal mandates to reduce sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

"This is what causes the dead zones," Gardina said.

Under the proposal, homeowners with a standard townhouse lot of about one-fifth acre will see a flat increase of $18. Owners of a single family detached home can expect to see a flat increase of about $36 annually.

Nearly 80 percent of the more than 283,000 properties in the county are residential. The bulk of the $23 million in stormwater related fees would come from commercial properties, according to county estimates.

The county expects to spend an additional $10 million in related stormwater projects to help decrease the cost to taxpayers.

Commercial properties including large shopping centers and apartment complexes will pay a fee of $69 per 2,000 square-feet of impervious surface. A shopping mall of more than 871,000 square-feet of impervious surface would pay more than $30,000 annually.

Nonprofits will pay the residential rate rather than the commercial rate, Gardina said.

"We're not asking for an exemption here," said Cailey Locklair, a lobbyist for the Baltimore Jewish Council. "Our community is passionate about environmental protection efforts.

"We are subject to fundraising," Locklair said. "We don't have a pot of money we can go to pay for these fees. The money that will pay toward this fee is directly going to come out of the services we provide."

But not all nonprofit groups want changes in the bill.

"We understand it will be an extra burden on our already slender budget but for us it's a matter of faith that we should care for our environment—in this case our waterways," said William Breakey, of the Maryland Presbyterian Church in Towson.

Almond and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, asked if the county could provide additional reductions for nonprofits in the form of either phasing in the fees or a hardship waiver.

"Any allowance for that would most likely push the residential fees up," said County Administrative Officer Fred Homan. "Our focus was to keep the residential fees as low as possible. You can't change once piece [of the bill] without changing another piece of this."

David Marks April 12, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Carney Mom, my understanding is that the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners directed its staff to develop a plan charging a flat rate of one cent per parcel. That county has found a way to absorb much of the cost through its General Fund. The proposed Baltimore County legislation and executive order do not require spending money in each district; I do not wish to speak for the administration, but I assume that's because the executive branch would want the flexibility to use resources to repair and improve stormwater systems to meet the requirements of the state mandate.
Sal April 12, 2013 at 09:52 PM
"Concerned Citizen" - the mouthpiece of Kevin Kamenetz - David Marks quit his job and put his name on the ballot. You don't even have the courage to name yourself. He's done a great job blocking bad development and preserving open space and I, for one, applaud him for questioning this storm water tax. Now, run back and report to the Mezzanine.
Stark April 12, 2013 at 10:08 PM
How are your boss's bodyguards and vehicle working out, Don?
Bart April 13, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Bryan Sears: Please remove this comment from "Concerned Citizen". Our politicians deserve scrutiny, but not juvenile name-calling from some anonymous critic. The Patch deserves better quality discussion than this.
DAVID PATRO SR April 13, 2013 at 10:22 PM
zach compromise is for all partys to talk now we need to stop the sale . stop the sale SAY NO to the proposed sale of North Point Government Center PARK!

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