Pennsylvania municipalities are increasingly adopting stormwater fees as a dedicated and equitable source of revenue to pay for infrastructure improvements and to meet regulatory requirements.
Most municipalities that have adopted stormwater impact fees base their fee structure on the amount of impervious surface area of a property -- paved or roofed land areas. Others use a flat fee per parcel system.
Offering property owners a way to earn credits towards their stormwater fees has proven to be an effective mechanism to reducing impervious cover and incorporating green infrastructure (GI). Examples of GI include rain gardens, pervious pavement, rain barrels, gravel driveways (versus pavement), and streamside buffers. Additionally, some municipalities offer grant programs to help residents who may not be able to afford the fee. Property owners can typically reduce their bill between 20 and 50 percent.
The following examples illustrate ways in which municipalities have tweaked their credit policies to encourage participation from farmers, commercial property owners, and streamside property owners:
- NON-RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES: Hampden Township, Cumberland County, adopted a credit policy which provides nonresidential property owners the opportunity to receive a credit of up to 50%. The policy includes credits for stormwater rate and volume control, fertilizer management, education programs, and separate MS4 permittees. Individual credit values ranged from 15% to 50% and a property owner may take advantage of multiple credits, if applicable, up to the maximum total of 50%.
- AGRICULTURAL LAND: Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County, offers fee credits for agricultural properties by as much as 90 percent. Eligible properties start out with a 25% Low Impact Parcel Credit. Having a manure or nutrient management plan wins you another 5%; an erosion control or soil conservation plan another 30%. Verification of implementation of these plans’ BMPs awards you yet another 30%.
- STREAMSIDE BUFFER INCENTIVE: Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County, offers up to 30% credit for property owners who maintain or create a riparian buffer alongside a stream (minimum 25 linear feet of stream and 35-foot minimum buffer width).
Maintenance of practices used to approve fee credits is critical. Typically, operations and maintenance reports are required to be submitting annually to municipalities. Municipalities should lead by example and incorporate green infrastructure design standards into public works projects at the same time as introducing incentives for the private sector.