Stormwater fees are increasing in Decatur. How much will you have to pay?

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Decatur City Hall

By Zachary Hansen

Decatur recently raised its stormwater fees for residents in order to fund $38 million worth of improvement projects over the next 20 years.

Base annual fees more than double this year and will nearly triple next year, according to a resolution passed Monday by the Decatur City Commission. The extra funds will help the city better handle and drain large amounts of stormwater from heavy rainstorms, preventing ponding and flooding.

City leaders said they’re implementing the program over a two-year period in order to help ease residents into the higher payments, taking the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the economy into account.

“We have aging and aged stormwater infrastructure that we need address in some manner, but we also need to be aware of the impact on affordability,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said. “Finding the right balance is part of the reason for this phase-in approach.”

In addition, the city implemented a tiered system, where residents with less land will have smaller fees and vice versa. In 2021, some residents fees will drop slightly, but everyone’s fee should increase after 2022. Fees are due June 1 of every year.

How much will I have to pay?

All single-family homeowners used to pay a flat $100 fee, which is referred to as a equivalent residential unit (ERU). The city’s new system has four tiers, which take the amount of impervious areas on a property into account. An impervious area is an artificial structure, such as a sidewalk, a roof, a patio or a driveway, that blocks water flow.

The city is increasing the base fee to $215 for 2021. Assistant City Manager David Junger said during Monday’s meeting that most Decatur residents would be required to pay either $85 or $150 this year. For residents with less than 2,500 square feet of impervious area, their fees will drop by $15 in 2021.

The rate is different for all other property types, including commercial and non-single-family properties. For every 4,000 square feet of impervious area, the fee this year is $215 — equal to the ERU.

Starting in 2022, the base fee will increase again to $285. The same rules apply for commercial and non-single-family properties, which have their rate tied to ERU per 4,000 square feet of impervious area.

Decatur also offers credits for a portion of the fees by reducing run-off and saving tree canopy. Resident older than 80 who make less than $40,000 a year will also have their fees offset for the next three years, according to another resolution passed by the city Monday. Finance Director Russ Madison said between 120 and 140 seniors qualify for this exemption.

The city created an online calculator that residents can use to learn their specific fee. It can be accessed at gis.interdev.com/StormwaterFeeLookUp. Junger said anyone who thinks there’s their fee isn’t correct or runs into an error can email him at david.junger@decaturga.com.

What will be done with this money?

Decatur updated its Storm Water Master Plan last December, its first update since 2004.

“This plan evaluates stormwater concerns across the city and prioritizes solutions to address these concerns,” the plan reads. “The major goals of this plan are to improve stormwater management in Decatur’s neighborhoods, public spaces, and rights-of-way, to mitigate environmental impacts from urban runoff, and to improve the water quality in the city’s watersheds.”

According to city leaders, Decatur’s aging infrastructure has led to ponding and flooding during strong storms in residential areas. The updated plan will implement “new drainage requirements for all developments and policies for use of green infrastructure to control the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff.”

The plan also identifies 75 projects the city wants to complete over the next two decades. A full list of projects is available at decaturga.com/dec/page/stormwater-utility.

Proposed Tier Rate Schedule… by Zachary Hansen

Read the original story on AJC.com.