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A stormwater utility fee is similar to a water or sewer fee. In essence, customers pay a fee to convey stormwater from their properties. The utility is the result of unfunded United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) mandates that force cities like St. Clair Shores to manage stormwater within their jurisdiction. The fee is used to finance annual compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting standards. The NPDES is the compliance system for the Clean Water Act (CWA) and requires that all stormwater discharges that enter waters of the United States must meet minimum federal water quality requirements.
Stormwater begins as rain or snowmelt that flows over land rather than seeping into the ground. It flows over hard surfaces (impervious surfaces) such as roofs, driveways, and walkways, as well as pervious surfaces such as grass, gardens, and woodlands into the city’s combined sewer system. The more hard surface (impervious surface) on your property, the more stormwater runoff is contributed to the sewer system.
This drainage either flows into the same underground pipes as sewage and must be treated at the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) wastewater treatment plant before it can be released back into the environment or into Lake St. Clair through a separate storm water sewage system.
The City of St. Clair Shores is billed by the SESMD for the conveyance and treatment of combined sewage at GLWA.
Since 1993, the City has had a stormwater utility ordinance that requires property owners to pay a user fee related to the operation and maintenance of the City’s stormwater system. The current stormwater utility ordinance was developed on the basis of a 1992 Stormwater Utility Implementation Report prepared by McNamee, Porter & Seeley, Inc. This 1992 report is now 30 years old and has not been updated based on recent court rulings. The Michigan Supreme Court has since ruled on stormwater service charges, in particular as related to violating the “Bolt Criteria.” The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the stormwater service charge imposed by Lansing was unconstitutional and void on the basis that it was a tax for which voter approval was required and not a valid use fee. The Court established three criteria for distinguishing between a fee and a tax:1) a user fee must serve a regulatory purpose rather than a revenue-raising purpose2) a user fee must be proportionate to the necessary costs of the service; and3) a user fee must be voluntary--property owners must be able to refuse or limit their use of the commodity or service
The outcome of this study recommends the City adopt an updated methodology as a basis of billing for stormwater charges that meets the three aspects of the “Bolt Criteria”. This study has determined a methodology to assign all properties within the City their proportional share of the cost of service to capture, convey, and treat the stormwater that runs off each property and to meet the needs of the City’s stormwater regulatory obligations. The study recommends using the direct impervious vs. pervious surface area and total property area to determine the property’sdirect runoff potential. This entails an individual review of each residential lot, by size/zoning classification, and every non-residential property to calculate square feet of imperviousness for each parcel. Once PRP is initially determined, there are no zoning classifications or groups of properties. All calculations are based solely on impervious vs. pervious area and the particular benefit each property receives due to the stormwater system. Other general items that werelooked at which affect stormwater were topography, soils, property maintenance and access to stormwater facilities.
Residents may store their own recreation vehicles and recreation equipment on their own property for an indefinite period of time, provided the vehicles are in operable condition and can meet all other provisions of the city’s codes and ordinances. In short, Recreational Vehicles must be parked on a paved surface and meet setback requirements. Recreational vehicles shall be set back at least four (4) feet from any side lot line if the vehicles are located closer than six (6) feet to the main building on the site. If the vehicles are located more than six (6) feet from the main building, then the recreational vehicles shall be set back at least two (2) feet, six (6) inches from any side or rear lot line. For residents whose recreational vehicles cannot meet the setback and/or lot coverage requirements, their recreational vehicle may be stored up to forty-eight (48) hours prior to a planned trip, for loading purposes, and forty-eight (48) hours upon return from the same trip, for the purpose of unloading the recreational vehicle. In no event shall such recreational vehicles or equipment be stored more than ninety-six (96) hours in a seven (7) day period. A recreational vehicle or equipment parked or stored on a lot within the city shall not be connected to water, sanitary facilities, or electrical service, and shall not be occupied.