12/13/2006: "Council Passes Stormwater Ord To An Empty House"
(Full County Council in new seating arrangement)
The County Council (CC) held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance of regulations and fees to address stormwater in San Juan County, and no one showed up; that is, unless you count the press and two members of the committee who advised the CC to pass the ordinance.
The ordinance will result in a new "fee" of $46.20 that will show up on property tax bills for each "developed" piece of property. The CC was told the majority of the money collected will be spent to provide stormwater improvements to Eastsound and other "essential large capital improvements". The CC was informed that in determining the amount to charge, it was decided that all property owners with developed property should pay into a stormwater fund, since it was developed property that had been identified as the source of negative impacts from stormwater.
It was also noted that if only those directly effected by stormwater paid their way, then some property owners in Eastsound would be paying as much as $50 a month, as opposed to a yearly charge of $46.20 if all property owners paid into a general fund. Individual property owners outside of such Urban Growth Areas as Eastsound will continue to be responsible for paying for the planning, permitting and installation of stormwater mandated improvements on their own property, in addition to paying the yearly $46.20 into the stormwater fund.
Matt Zybas of Public Works testified that for the purposes of the ordinance, "developed" would mean property that contained a residence or a commercial building. In response to questioning from Councilman Bob Myhr -who has noted some resistance to the fees from his constituents on Lopez- Zybas said a barn or other accessory buildings would not count as developed. This seemed to satisfy Myhr's concerns about his constituents concerns. Why one structure (e.g. a residence) would be a development, and another (a barn) would not, was not explained, and is not explained as such in the ordinance.
Zybas told the Island Guardian that eventually the fees for commercial buildings and large homes could exceed the base fee of $46.20, but at the present time Public Works (who will administer the program, and will also "kick-in" money to the fund) does not have an inventory of the size of improvements that contribute to stormwater run-off; such as driveways, roofs and the like, so all developed property will be assumed to have at least the base square footage of 4,400.
The Ordinance contains a multiplier that will be used to increase charges based on the square footage of impervious surfaces, but for now all improved property is assumed to be at least the minimum of 4,400 square feet, which is the base amount the $46.20 is tied to. If the County determines the square footage of impervious surface area exceeds 4,400 SqFt, and an additional charge is assessed as a result, the property owner may appeal, but the burden of proof is on the owner, and in some cases the the hiring of a surveyor or an engineer is required by the ordinance to make the determination.
The Ordinance can go into effect once the appeal period has passed.