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Berlin prepares to implement stormwater management plan

BERLIN — The time line for fully implementing new stormwater management policies approved by the Berlin Town Council last week will probably be a year, Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter said last week.
The process will be on two tracks: establishing the fees for commercial property owners in time for the July 1 effective date and submitting applications for grants and loans to help further fund the new program.
The council approved Ordinance 2013-01, which established a stormwater utility department, and Resolution 2013-01, which established a funding mechanism for the new department, on Jan. 28.
The new rule asserted that “The costs of improving, maintaining, operating and monitoring the stormwater system should be allocated, to the extent practicable, to all property owners based on the impact of runoff from the impervious areas of their property on the stormwater management system.”
The utility would be funded in part by a flat $50 annual fee for residential property owners and a $25 annual formula-based fee for commercial property owners. The formula for commercial property would be based on the square footage of impervious area — where water cannot penetrate, such as paved parking lots, which creates runoff to the nearest pervious space, such as grass or pervious concrete — and is measured in equivalent residential units.
The fees would apply to each ERU increment, which would equate to each 2,100 square foot space of impervious cover within a property. Kreiter described the process for determining the ERU-based fees that would apply to most of the town’s 290 commercial properties.
She said the department’s evaluators would be looking at the footprint of the overall property to determine the square footage of the impervious space. That number would then be divided by 2,100 and then the quotient would be multiplied by the $25 fee. For example, a property with 8,400 square feet of imperious parking lot would be divided by 2,100, the ERU approximation of an average single family home. The quotient – four – would be the number of ERUs subject to the annual per ERU fee; in this case the annual fee would be $100 (as in $25 x 4, get it?). Prorated by 12, the monthly assessment outlay for the property would be $8.33, she pointed out.
The town, for its part, will be kicking in $300,000 a year as well.
But Kreiter also said that for some of the commercial properties, determining the square footage of impervious space could be much more tedious. Those properties may require the use of geographic information systems, which utilizes tools such digitalized mapping that can overlay boundary markers and provide aerial photographs, to get a clearer delineation of the pervious versus impervious sections of a property.
The ordinance also outlines the procedures and conditions under which property owners who contest their assessments can appeal the department’s evaluation, according to Kreiter.
A request for proposals from contractors who can help evaluate the commercial properties was issued Feb. 3, according to Kreiter. Billing for the assessments begins July 1.
The design phase for the stormwater physical plant will begin by March, Kreiter said. She estimated that the process would take three to six months to complete. Officials hope to begin construction by spring or summer of 2014, she said.
The stormwater management process would implement a priority plan to alleviate flooding in a manner that would not negatively affect water quality, she said. The process would include the property evaluations, cleaning out ditches, culverts and drainage pipes, which would also require camera inspections.
The process of obtaining construction permits would probably take the longest amount of time, approximately six months, she predicted. But officials will immediately begin the process of applying for grants and loans to fund the new facility,” before any big construction project commences,” she said.
Officials will submit applications to the Maryland Department of the Environment and Department of Natural Resources, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Community Development Block Grant Program.
On Jan. 31, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) praised Berlin for enacting the new ordinance. “I applaud Berlin for its progressive action in moving Maryland toward restoring our Chesapeake and coastal bays,” he was quoted in a statement published on the town’s Web site. “Through this utility, the people of Berlin are doing their part to protect our state’s natural treasures for generations to come” O’Malley said.