Local Controversy Intensifies Over Proposed Northeast Ohio Stormwater Utility

The Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) is pushing forward with a proposed storm water utility that would extend through out its service area.  The Board is expected to vote on the proposal January 7th.

Under the proposal the District would assess the average homeowner $4.75 per month or around $57 per year.  The fees would be aggregated to run a regional storm water program administered by the Sewer District to perform the following activities:

  • Create master storm water plans
  • Inspect and maintain storm water control infrastructure
  • Build storm water control projects
  • Support green infrastructure
  • Restore streams
  • Assist municipalities in complying with Phase II storm water requirements

(click here for NEORSD's power point on the proposed storm water utility)

Recent newspaper articles have discussed battle over the District's legal authority to implement the plan.  The Plain Dealer has had a series of articles discussing the storm water utility proposal in depth as well as an editorial in support. As reported in the Hudson-Hub Times, Summit County has already filed a lawsuit challenging the proposal.

A complaint for declaratory judgment and permanent injunction was filed by Summit County Dec. 30 in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. Other plaintiffs include Northfield Center and Sagamore Hills townships, the cities of Macedonia, Hudson and Bath, and the villages of Boston Heights and Richfield.

The complaint states, among other allegations, that NEORSD has no authority to impose “stormwater fees, taxes or assessments on Summit County residents” and states the county engineer’s office is better suited to manage stormwater issues in the county.

Communities within Cuyahoga County have also expressed concern.  As reported in theSun-Star Courier, Broadview Heights and Strongsville also have issues with the proposal.

The fee doesn’t sit well with Broadview Heights Mayor Sam Alai either. With the city already having fees in place, residents may be seeing a double charge if the district has their way.

“My opinion is that Broadview Heights has its own sewer fee,” Alai said. “I can’t see us billing our residents twice for the same service.”

Concern has focused mostly on the following issues associated with proposal:

  • Wisdom of imposing a new tax during these tough economic times
  • Legal authority to create the utility
  • Summit County is concerned fees will be assessed in their County for projects in Cuyahoga County
  • Local governments are concerned with infringement upon their authority

These are all serious issues worthy of debate which have already resulted in litigation.   In fact, this list of issues may be so serious that many are not paying close attention to other, more practical, issues associated with the proposal.   

NEORSD just concluded its public comment period and has revised its proposed regulations that would govern the utility.  It is a valuable exercise to review the proposed regulations to get a better understanding of how the District will administer the program. (Click here to see revised regulations)  In future posts I will be discussing some of the issues that perhaps have been overlooked as a result of the debate over legal authority.  These include:

  • Impact on local ordinances governing storm water
  • Proposed use of Watershed Advisory Committees to solicit input on projects and planning
  • Advantages and disadvantages to a regional program to address storm water
  • Green infrastructures relationship to combined sewer overflows

 

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Comments (1) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Robert Stockham - January 6, 2010 8:53 AM

I get that there are residents outside Cuyahoga county that may not see as much of the benefits of upgrading the storm water system. However, in typical fashion, rather than try to reach an agreement, everyone is posturing and nothing is happening. In the meantime, raw sewage continues to enter our watershed during every huge downpour. The health of Lake Erie is important to all counties of the region and should be a primary concern.

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