Show off your holiday lights and you could win an iPad! Enter your photo by December 13. Winner will be selected by popular vote.
The new fee will be based on the amount of surface on a property that cannot absorb water. It will help pay for a backlog of drainage work to meet new federal standards.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Roanoke officials are proposing a new fee to pay for the tens of millions of dollars of work needed to deal with the city’s chronic flooding problems and to make sure runoff after rainstorms doesn’t carry pollution into streams and rivers.
The new fee will be 85 cents to 90 cents a month for each 500 square feet of surface where rain can’t soak into the ground — that translates to between $10.20 and $10.80 a year for a 20-by-25-foot driveway or $20.40 to $21.60 a year for a 30-by-32-foot house.
The aim is to raise the funds to tackle a backlog of more than $70 million of drainage works and the multimillion-dollar tab for meeting tough new federal standards for storm water flowing into rivers and streams.
The fee will generate a bit more than $4 million a year. It will go into a fund dedicated for drainage and storm water management work and couldn’t be used for any other purpose.
City workers have struggled for years to whittle down the list of drainage problems, but the $1.1 million a year the city now slates for the work, even when the state matches that total, means they can barely finish one project before a new task is added to their work list.
Meanwhile, by next year, the city could face federal fines if it doesn’t take steps to reduce the sediment, bacteria and chemicals washed from its paved areas into the Roanoke River. The river is rated as impaired because of the pollutants already in it.
“We’re a city of greenways, we’d like the Roanoke River to be a blueway, and we think of the outdoors as being part of what’s great about being here,” said City Manager Chris Morrill. “Getting the Roanoke River off the impaired list should be a community priority.”
Morrill said Friday that he plans to ask the city council for approval to begin collecting at least part of the fee in July 2014.
He said he expects the city council may want to phase in the charge over time, to avoid hitting owners of commercial property with large parking lots and roofed areas with a big bill they can’t plan for. The fee likely will be collected once a year.
While the sums to be raised are about the same as when city officials first floated the idea three years ago, Morrill said the new approach ties the fee more closely to the amount of land that sheds rain, instead of absorbing it.
“People call it a tax on rain … but it isn’t really. It’s a fee. What you contribute to the problem is reflected in what you pay to fix the problem,” he said.
The fee proposal includes credits for property owners who take steps to reduce runoff, such as the green roof installed on city hall or the rain gardens now under construction on Bullitt Avenue as part of the Elmwood Park renovation, Morrill said.
“It’s like when we started charging for water usage,” Morrill said. “All of a sudden, people starting installing low-flow toilets and thinking about whether they really needed to water their lawns every day.”
After a few years of collecting the fee, Morrill said he thinks the city can persuade investment banks to underwrite a multimillion-dollar bond that would allow Roanoke to move even faster to tackle its largest drainage challenges.
City Engineer Phil Schirmer said he and his staff have started surveying lots to calculate impervious area — “basically, if it ain’t green and growing,” he explained — and expect to be able to tell all property owners how much they have by November. So far, they’ve done the work on about 7,000 of some 40,000 parcels.
Roanoke City Council is set to hear a presentation on the fee at its regular meeting Monday.
Weather JournalWarmth next 2 days hits icy wall