Emmitsburg commissioners impose stormwater fee

·3 min read

Sep. 14—Emmitsburg residents will soon see a new fee added to their water and sewer bills.

The Board of Commissioners on Monday voted 4-1 to impose a stormwater management utility fee upon residential and nonresidential properties. Commissioner Joseph Ritz III voted against the fee.

Most residential properties — about 69% (616 parcels) — will incur a $20 stormwater fee annually, according to town planner Zach Gulden.

The fee depends on the square feet of impervious surface covering a property. An impervious surface is one that stormwater cannot travel through into the ground, such as driveways and parking lots.

On the low end, about 20% of residential properties, or 173 parcels, will pay about $10 per year for the new stormwater fee. The highest residential fee, at about $300, will be imposed on an apartment complex.

Fees will be collected quarterly for properties connected to town water or sewer. A property with an annual fee of $10 would pay $2.50 per quarter.

Properties not connected to town water or sewer service will be billed annually.

Nonresidential properties may see higher costs. About 16% (11 parcels) of nonresidential properties will be charged $10 per year, 12% (eight parcels) will be charged $20 per year, and 72% (49 parcels) will be higher than that amount.

The highest fee — about $5,127 — will be imposed upon the Daughters of Charity property, which includes the site of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine, according to Gulden.

The new fee was sparked by the town's requirement to meet state and federal mandates to reduce stormwater pollution. The Maryland Department of the Environment issues stormwater permits to municipalities.

Permit requirements can be met in a number of ways, like by planting trees, sweeping streets or retrofitting stormwater basins. In Emmitsburg, stormwater permit expenses topped $191,800 between October 2018 and July 2022, according to Gulden.

Stormwater costs are expected to continue to fall on Emmitsburg. With the new fee, the town should collect about $34,851 annually to help cover expenses, Gulden wrote in an email.

Commissioners expressed reluctance over the vote Monday.

"I'm going to vote in favor of it, but I'm not happy about it," Commissioner Frank Davis said. "We don't have a choice."

Ritz voted no as "a matter of principle." He predicts the fee will have to be raised in the future.

"Mark my words — it won't stay at $20," Ritz said.

"You're probably correct," board President Tim O'Donnell said.

Gulden said he is happy to answer questions about the stormwater fees and how they are calculated. The town will seek to inform residents about the new fee through social media, the town website and town newsletter.

The first stormwater fees will be due Feb. 5.

Also at Monday's meeting, the Board of Commissioners:

— Voted to declare Lutsk, Ukraine, a Sister City of Emmitsburg, to show support for those enduring the Russian invasion.

— Heard several complaints from residents regarding speeding and traffic safety around the Brookfield community. Frederick County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Ahalt took note of the concerns. Town Manager Cathy Willets said she would look into getting a sign from the county that displays the speed of passing vehicles.

— Voted to approve a new policy on mowing grass and removing weeds on properties. The town will place door hangers on properties that are in violation and follow up with a letter, Willets said. If the property owner does not fix the problem within the deadline, the town may mow the grass and bill the property owner. If the bill is not paid in time, it would go to court to establish a lien against the property.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller