Stormwater management is important both because of what stormwater carries and how fast it moves. Water has tremendous power and can cause erosion, property and roadway damage, river bank instability, and other safety concerns when moving quickly. However, the primary concern is that when rain falls and water rushes off of our roads and driveways, it also picks up oils, debris, bacteria, and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus naturally found in soils. This stormwater carries these pollutants to our streams and rivers, which all drain to Lake Champlain.
The Town of St. Albans faces an increasingly difficult and expensive challenge of addressing stormwater management needs and regulatory requirements. Portions of the watersheds of both Rugg Brook and Stevens Brook have been identified as being impaired due to excessive stormwater runoff. Additionally, stormwater runoff has been identified as a significant contributor to the water quality issues associated with St. Albans Bay. In 2012, the Town of St. Albans became listed as an MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System). Due to the impaired watersheds, the Town is required to make a considerable investment into its stormwater infrastructure before 2036. To make this more feasible, it was determined that forming a Stormwater Utility would allow the Town to raise the funding necessary to complete the required projects, without increasing taxes.
The Town of St. Albans adopted a stormwater utility ordinance on September 21, 2020 to better address our community’s water quality needs. Under a utility structure, funds are collected from all property owners, including those that are tax exempt, through annual fees billed in July. Fees are based on the amount of impervious surface on properties.
The Stormwater Utility is based on a user fee system. All property owners in the town will pay a fee based on the amount of impervious area (e.g., pavement, sidewalk, and rooftops) on the parcel. Impervious surfaces increase the velocity and quantity of stormwater runoff- so this approach is a reasonable way to determine the individual impact of a parcel. Based on the average size of Single-Family Residence (SFR), the Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) was determined to be 3500 sf. All SFRs will be billed for 1 ERU a year. All Non-Single-Family Residences (NSFRs) will be billed based on their total impervious surface- as measured from satellite imagery and GIS based analysis. The total impervious area- measured in square feet (sf) on a parcel will be divided by 3500 sf.
On May 17, 2021, the Town Selectboard voted to adopt an annual rate of $50/ ERU. The first utility billing will go out in mid-July (separate from the Town tax bill).
The funds generated by the utility fee will be used to implement capitol projects- designed to address the needs of the impaired watersheds and Lake Champlain. Additionally, the funds will pay for staffing needs, operation and maintenance of town owned stormwater systems, improvements to roads, culverts and stormdrains, permitting costs, etc.