NE Ohio: New stormwater fee to impact homeowners, businesses

5:56 PM, Dec 30, 2009   |    comments
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A stormwater management fee is aimed at dealing with problems of flooding, erosion and pollution.

It would cost most homeowners about $57 a year.

The district claims such issues have gotten almost four times worse since a study in the 1970's and now is the  time to start addressing them.

"Erosion along stream banks is putting roads and property in jeopardy. If we keep putting repairs off, it will just continue to be more expensive, " said District Executive Director Julius Ciaccia.

The fee would be calculated depending on how much hard surface (roof, driveway, patio or parking lot) a home, business or organization has.

But some officials and businesses are ready to mount a legal challenge.

Lyndhurst Mayor Joseph Cicero argues that the district only has the authority to deal with wastewater and not stormwater issues.

"They are overstepping their authority for a non-elective board. It's taxation without representation," Cicero said.

Cicero also complained about the district's lack of communication. The district held a series of community meetings to explain this.

Cicero sought to have the district board postpone its scheduled Jan. 7 vote.

The board's prepared to approve the fee plan and then go to court seeking a judgement, declaring it has the power to enact this.

Summit County officials complain that the district should have explained the plan to them instead of local communities.

The district is prepared to offer Homestead Exemption discounts to seniors.

Homeowners could get 25 percent reductions if they control water through rain gardens, barrels or swales. Businesses can get a 75 percent reduction for appropriate measures.

Schools can get 100 percent reduction for such steps and teaching courses on relevant environmental issues.

Numeous Ohio cities already charge a similar fee.

"We can't keep lagging behind," Ciaccia said.

Some struggling businesses argue that the fee is another cost they cannot afford.

But Ciaccia claims the fee plan will be more equitable, sharing flood control costs stemming from "big box" store parking lots now paid by homeowners in their bills.

The fee is expected to raise about $40 million a year for projects and maintenance.

Some of the first projects would include dealing with Warner Road erosion in Garfield Heights by Mill Creek and installing basins around Big Creek in Cleveland and Parma.

Critics also say this fee is unreasonable, coming on top of a 9 percent rate hike the district will charge in 2010.

Ciaccia says, "There's never a good time. We think this is the appropriate time." 

WKYC-TV

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