Porter County is
setting the stage statewide for putting into a place an appeal system of a
Stormwater Management User Fee.
Management Board, consisting of the three County Commissioners and the
County Surveyor, Tuesday adopted a resolution establishing criteria to
determine whether a parcel may be eligible for a user fee reduction for
property owners in the unincorporated areas.
Jeff Good, R-Center, said he is pleased with what his colleagues on the
Stormwater Advisory Board have come up with and their efforts are breaking
“I’m very satisfied
in a lot of ways because we are pioneering how to give due process for
people who are practicing good stormwater and clean water management
measures here. We are allowing them to take part of that,” Good said. “There
are a lot of people down state who are looking at this as a way to handle
this issue in a more transparent way.”
Director of the
County Department of Development and Stormwater Management Robert Thompson
said that no other county, or municipality for that matter, has put in place
a due process for an appeal of its stormwater fee.
Recommended by the
Stormwater Advisory Board, property owners can receive a reduced fee if they
can provide a site plan describing ways they are improving stormwater runoff
on the property, demonstrate that the stormwater benefits will be protected
in perpetuity, include public access and public education by having signage
describing how the benefits are working on the property, as well as
displaying the hours the public can access the property.
“Our program also
has to see some benefits from their efforts and that is helping us with
public education and outreach an public involvement,” said County Stormwater
Engineer Mike Novotney. He explained that the resolution helps the County
provide education to the public, one of the tenants of the federal Municipal
Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) program.
Members of the
Izaak Walton League Porter County Chapter attended the meeting Tuesday to
ask for clarification on a few points in the resolution. The Chapter is
currently appealing four sets of parcels they intend to make accessible to
environmentalist Charlotte Read asked how much public outreach the County
has performed already and the time frame for the public to make appeals.
She also wanted to
know how much information would be required for the signage.
Rich Hudson could explain at the next meeting what public education has been
done already, Good said. The time frame goes by what is stated in the
ordinance creating the stormwater fee, he said.
interpretive signage would describe in simple terms how runoff and
pollutants are being treated. The language to be included on the signs would
be up to the stormwater department staff and the advisory board, advised
County Attorney Scott McClure.
Herb Read said he
still questions the fairness of how the user fee schedule is structured.
A homeowner with
less than an acre can be charged the same amount as a homeowner with 9.9
He asked if the
board would consider having the user fee be based on the amount of
impervious surface a property has, the same argument he has made before.
Read said “it
defies common sense” why would anyone want to purchase wetlands if they have
to pay a fee on them each year.
Good said the
Commissioners looked at what the cost projections would be to have an
impervious system and saw it would be too high a cost to have the technology
and employees to sustain that kind of system, given the size and geography
of the county.
would have been criticized for the costs, he said.
“I think we made
some very good decisions. We are going to stand by those and we may tweak
it. We are going to find a reasonable solution where we can all coexist
together and make this work at the end of the day for Porter County,” Good
vice-president of the Izaak Walton League Porter County Chapter, said he
thinks “it is a good resolution” and told the board he is willing to work
with the County but there were members who still have questions.
One question is
about the criteria that the parcel cannot be providing an economic benefit
to the property owner. Brown asked if fundraisers or renting space would be
considered as a benefit as long as it would be to help fund preservation.
Good and McClure
said that they don’t feel that would be a violation. The resolution is kept
in general terms instead of listing all activities that would or would not
be permitted, Good said, and individuals and groups seeking a reduced fee
should not be afraid to talk about their planned activities with the board.
“I think they are
worried too much. At the end of the day, what it is an education component,”
Walt Breitinger, a
conservationist from Valparaiso, said there are economic benefits to the
county from having environmental groups provide stormwater management. Water
conservation and flood control are provided and even if the organizations
don’t provide an educational component, they should be entitled to some
“I thank you for
considering and passing a resolution for reduction in fees and I hope it is
a first step towards examining this more and more. It’s wonderful that
you’ve done it but maybe it’s not quite enough to make me satisfied as a
conservationist. I think we need to try more to reduce those fees for the
people who are providing the very service you are trying to provide,”
Breitinger said to the board.