Columbia Mall Faces $35,000 Annual Stormwater Fee
Homeowners and business owners will face a stormwater fee due to a state law passed in 2012.
Depending on how big your house and driveway is, you'll be facing a storm water fee for those impervious surfaces, based on a law passed in the Maryland legislature in 2012.
The Howard County Council is currently working on legislation that would institute the state law in the county. Under the rate proposed by County Executive Ken Ulman, the fee would be $7.80 per 500 square feet of impervious surface.
Impervious surfaces are any surfaces that do not allow groundwater through, such a roofs, driveways, tennis courts and parking lots, according to the bill's text. The county would figure out how much square footage of impervious surfaces property owners have based on Geographic Information Services (GIS) technology and site plans, according to a statement released by the County Executive's office.
While this means that a moderately sized house and driveway (about 2,600 square feet) will face an extra $39 on their property tax bill every year, the bill for one Columbia business will be much larger.
Under the proposed legislation, the Mall in Columbia would face a $35,000 annual fee, according to the Howard County office of public information.
The fee would be one of the largest in the county, as the mall has about 52 acres of impervious surfaces, according to Karen Spicer of the public information office.
General Growth Properties, the owners of the mall, declined to comment on their opinion of the legislation.
Once collected, the fees will be used for stream restoration, treating stormwater, preventing erosion and reducing pollution, according to the legislation. All property owners except state and county government as well as volunteer fire departments will be subject to the fee.
The Columbia Association, another large owner of impervious surfaces in the county, said it supported the legislation, for the most part.
CA's watershed manager John McCoy testifed in front of the Council in February that CA has already spent $2.2 million on stormwater management as well as $13.5 million dredging Columbia's lakes of sediment from surrounding properties, according to a text of his remarks.
McCoy said CA agreed with the concept behind the bill in that it will force property owners to think about the stormwater they generate, but asked that organizations like CA who treat stormwater from adjoining properties be eligible for greater reimbursement.
Property owners who install stormwater management ponds or landscaping on their property will be eligible for a reiumbursement of the fee under the legislation.
At a work session on Feb. 26, the Council had questions on how Geographic Information Services technology will help determine just how much square feet of impervious surfaces properties have, how the money will be distributed to environmental causes, and what administrative costs will arise from the program, according to the meeting's minutes.
The state bill mandating the counties to institute the program was passed in April of 2012. At the time, Republican members of the state Senate attempted to filibuster the bill, calling it a "$6 billion tax on counties based on the projected funding needed over 13 years," according to MarylandReporter.com.
At a County Council meeting in February, local residents from around Howard County spoke out in favor of the legislation.
"We all dislike paying more for anything," wrote Tom Zolper in a Patch blog. "Yet residents young and old, businessmen, teachers, students and others, came to the microphone at the Howard County Council meeting to support the proposed new fee that will be dedicated to maintenance and improvements of the county’s $600 million storm water system."
What do you think of the stormwater fee legislation? Tell us in the comments.