As my last post discussed, new regulations required that communities begin to address nonpoint source pollution. This was in the form of an “unfunded mandate”, so any entity involved had to come up with the funds to address the new pollution program.
What is the fee?
The majority of communities have elected to enact a stormwater (drainage) utility fee. In Jeffersonville, residents receive a bill for stormwater based on an Equivalent Residential Unit or ERU. Residential, single family homes pay $3.50 per month for their property. As described on the City of Jeffersonville Stormwater Department page, non-residential properties are billed based on a ERU of $3.50 per 2500 square feet of impervious surface (a surface which does not permit water to seep through to the soil, such as concrete, asphalt or a building). The drainage fee is included on the sanitary sewer billing statement.
Each community in our area charges a different cost for each ERU depending on their needs.
Impervious surface what?
If water cannot soak into the ground, it will either pond or runoff. In a field, water will soak into the ground at a certain rate; some will runoff. In an urban setting, water quickly moves from rooftops, parking lots, sidewalks, and anything else that does not allow water to soak into the ground. This is known as impervious surface. There is an interesting fact sheet from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources that has more information about impervious surfaces.
Can you reduce your fee?
As of right now in Jeffersonville, there are not much in the way of credits to reduce your stormwater fee; however, we are working on some new Green Infrastructure standards and I think that we will eventually head in that direction. A few communities around the State of Indiana do provide a credit for site owners installing Low Impact Development or Green Infrastructure projects. As an example, in the pictures below, a property owner has replaced their concrete driveway with pervious pavers. While the pavers themselves are impervious, they are fitted together in a manner that allows water to soak into the ground.
What does this have to do with floodplains?
The greater the impervious surface area, the greater the potential for flash flooding in the downstream areas. Water moves very quickly from impervious surfaces to the waterways. If we can reduce the amount of stormwater leaving a site, perhaps by using the above shown pervious pavers and other best management practices, we can start to reduce the damage caused by flooding.
The flood finale
Impervious surface area is one method used to determine the cost of a property’s stormwater utility fee. Residential units are usually priced at one ERU (some type of average), with commercial and other non-residential properties having a different rate. The funds collected are put towards solving flooding and water quality issues in the community.
For the real estate professional, these last two posts provide you with some background about why the fees exist and what they mean for a potential buyer. As mentioned, each community has a different rate, so being able to understand the pricing structure can be useful for a client.