01/05/2009: "Peterson: “Stormwater Fees Counter Productive”"
//11/04/2008 County Councilman Rich Peterson has had second thoughts on the wisdom of moving forward with the new proposed Storm Water Funding Ordinance. Peterson has sent a memo to the Council stating that he had conducted research that lead him to withdraw his support for any fees other than a “base fee” to fund the stormwater ordinance that is up for a Public Hearing today (Nov 4, 2008) at 2:00 p.m.
Peterson told the Council that he had received requested research that indicated San Juan County is one of 9 counties that are non-compliant, and 14 of the 39 counties in the state are “eligible for a 3-year extension” to meet GMA (Growth Management Act) storm water compliance..
A ”Stormwater Ordinance Brief” sent to the Council by Communications program manager Stan Matthews states the "most urgent GMA compliance issue is the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board’s order of June 2006 concerning non-compliance in Eastsound.”
The Council has repeatedly been told by CD&PD (planning department) Director Ron Henrickson and Council Chairman Howard Rosenfeld that if they don’t pass the funding ordinance the State will impose a building moratorium, but those who have been around for awhile have said that is highly unlikely.
Councilman Kevin Ranker said “The motivation for me was never that there will be a building moratorium, the likelihood of that is minuscule at best.” Ranker said his concern was that the County is “missing out on millions of dollars in grants because we are non-compliant.”
Petersen reminded the council members that the funding included in the proposed ordinance is to pay for a storm water plan that -for the most part- the County has no intention of building, since the community of Eastsound prefers to have a more “green” plan than the one originally submitted to the state to obtain compliance.
Petersen’s objections to moving forward on the storm water plan are also grounded on a pragmatic awareness of the budget problems facing the County. “I believe, given that the County’s only likely way out of this economic predicament will be to ask the voters to approve a levy lid-lift sometime in the future,” he said.
Which is to say, a self-imposed property tax increase may be necessary, and Petersen thinks it unlikely that an “angry populace” will be willing to pass a tax increase, when they have a storm water “tax” (i.e. legally a fee) forced on them by the Council.
Councilman Gene Knapp said he thought Peterson had “raised an excellent point that needs to be answered,” and the he would like to hear from Prosecutor Gaylord and others on the matter.
When Gaylord showed up later to answer questions, he told the Council that “this ordinance is not part of our compliance” with GMA." Gaylord agreed with Peterson that if the fees are removed, "it is appropriate to delay this if the structure [of the ordinance] is retained."
This brought on a flurry of comments from Henrickson and Administrator Pete Rose on the impacts of a lost of funding and a need for money to fund projects already scheduled. After some discussion it was decided that it would be possible to fund some of the projects even if the new fees are not collected at this time.
Public Works Director Jon Shannon told the council "We can do everything we are required to do next year with our grant funding."