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D. The Commission encourages the implementation of the Stormwater Management and Sediment Reduction Act on a watershed basis by local governments.
As to the financing of this program, we learned that the statute provides choices. BC can either institute a county wide annual fee, payable by every property owner in the unincorporated areas, or impose a one time fee to all new construction.
A (1) If the delegated jurisdiction has a source of funding that is provided through local revenues, then the implementation of the delegated component will not necessitate the imposition of a permit fee to cover the cost of the delegated program component.
(2) In the event that one component of an overall stormwater management and sediment control program is not funded through the use of general or special funds, a non-refundable permit fee may be collected at the time that the stormwater management and sediment control plan or application for waiver or variance is submitted or approved. The permit fee will provide for the unfunded costs of plan review, administration and management of the permitting office, construction review, maintenance inspection, and education and training.
This seems pretty simple. The County can opt to either charge a fee to the entities who are actually causing the proposed "damage" to the environment or they can just charge everybody. You might be asking,"Why in the world would the County want to charge everybody?" That wouldn't make much sense now would it? Well, think again. There is one more little insignificant part of the statute.
B. Where the Commission is the implementing agency, the Commission may assess a fee not to exceed $100.00 per disturbed acre up to a maximum of $2000.00. No fee will be charged for land disturbing activities which disturb two acres or less. A fee of $100.00 will be charged for permit modifications.
Well, looky there. When the responsibility for this "program" is transferred from the Commission (State) to the County, the same Rules and one time fee limits would apply. If the County decides to pick the "one time fee" to contractors, they would be boxed into a limited revenue situation. When there is a $2000 limit on individual fees, exactly how many new construction projects would we have to secure in one year to match the proposed overall countywide fee total of $1.4 MILLION? (In many people's opinions, there may be a lot of derogatory adjectives that rightfully apply to Dan Davis but "stupid" is not one of them. Unlike Councilman Pinckney, who seemed to have trouble with his financial disclosure forms to Ethics differentiating between $250 and $2.4 MILLION in personal benefit from a municipal project, Mr. Davis has no trouble comparing the sums involved in this situation.)
Then, another question as to who should be paying for this boondoggle comes to mind. The SC Statute seems to be pretty clear, to a non-lawyer that is.
A. The financing of a stormwater utility with a user charge system must be reasonable and equitable so that each user of the stormwater system pays to the extent to which the user contributes to the need for the stormwater system, and that the charges bear a substantial relationship to the cost of the service.
A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Frank Carson told a small group of concerned taxpayers that an "interim" annual fee was going to be imposed on all property owners in the unincorporated areas. (Later, in the Berkeley Independent, he indicated that this "interim" fee would be spent trying to determine what the "actual" annual fee will be.) It is our understanding that Mr. Carson indicated the fee would be based on the roof area of the buildings and the amount of paved area on the property. This combined figure would determine the impact on the environment and, therefore, the amount of the annual fee. When asked if the amount of undeveloped acreage surrounding the buildings would have any positive impact on reducing the fee he said, "NO".
When asked if the "Program" would require any new employees, facilities, or equipment, Mr. Carson said, "NO". (Having read the Rules & Regs, it is obvious that 95% of this "Program" is administrative and well within the abilities of existing employees.) HOWEVER, Mr. Carson delivered a presentation to Council last Monday night itemizing all the new expenditures that justify the taking of the $1.4 MILLION.
We need to remember that this "Program", with slight deviations, has existed in BC since 1993. Even as Mr. Carson was listing the extensive expenditures required for the upcoming years for this "Program", the Finance Department of BC government, at the same meeting, listed the past expenditures as being from $49,000 to $73,000 annually. These funds were comfortably provided by the general fund. The requirements of the "new" permit do not measurably deviate from those of the past so there is no way to justify the imposition of a $1.4 MILLION new tax burden on the property owners of BC.
So, here we have it in a nutshell. Mr. Davis is hellbent on taking $1.4 MILLION more from the taxpayers of BC. He has his 4 "paid for" members of County Council who will vote for anything he wants. This arrangement is additionally egregious due to the fact that 2 of these Councilmen represent areas populated with a substantial number of people who simply cannot afford any addition expenses.
One of the biggest arguments for this new "Program" is that surrounding Counties and municipalities already have it in place. To GE&P, this is not a valid argument. If something is unfair and, simply put, WRONG, it doesn't matter if everyone is doing it. It's still WRONG.
NOTE: On the surface, there would seem to be some doubt that these fees are enforceable as the "official" documents of BC government show a built-in 20% non-complience factor.