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Dear Ward 3 residents,

The Takoma Park City Council has a regular weekly virtual public meeting today, Wednesday, March 24, at 7:30pm. Please see the agenda and my notes about votes below.

Thank you to the residents who attended the ward meeting last night with Centro Evangelistico and Estrellitas Montessori School to learn more about plans for the 117 Elm Ave property. I will send notes from the meeting later this week.


Takoma Park City Council Meeting
March 24, 2021 at 7:30pm
Agenda here; Watch live or recorded here

Legislative Update
Public Comments (sign up by 5pm)
Council Comments
City Manager Comments

Voting Session:
Work Session:
Notes on Voting Items

The City Council has two voting items this week:

Second Reading Ordinance Amending the Stormwater Management Code

This is the final vote on amending the way that stormwater fees are collected for single-family properties. All single-family property residents should have received a letter in the mail explaining this proposed change several months ago. Information can be found here.

At present, the City collects stormwater fees in two different ways:
  • Single-family properties are charged a flat-fee
  • Other developed properties (including commercial, institutional, and multi-family) are charged based on a formula related to the actual impervious space on the property
The ordinance we are voting on would amend City Code to change the structure so that all developed properties are charged for stormwater fees in the same way: a formula based on their actual impervious space.

I have carefully considered this vote and decided to vote in support of the ordinance to change the fee structure.

This was a difficult decision because I don't believe that either system is perfect. This change would result in an increase in fees for some residents, and a few residents will need to pay substantially more than under a flat-fee structure. Although lower fees and higher fees seem to correlate with smaller/larger properties and with affordability to an extent, this is not universally the case.

However, I believe that this change overall is a more equitable and progressive fee approach. Under this changed system, in general, smaller properties with smaller homes would pay lower fees (which generally but not always correlates with more affordable properties). 

Importantly, this new system would be more equitable across property type because it would bring single-family-properties into the same structure of stormwater fees as multi-family properties. Renters on multi-family properties, condo owners, and single-family property residents (as well as small-business owners) would all have their fees determined in the same way.

By charging based on actual impervious space, residents would also pay a more approximate amount for their actual contribution to the stormwater system, and there is potential for this to incentivize reductions in impervious space. The consultant's analysis that recommended this change found that there was more variation in amount of impervious space across single-family-property units than was previously assumed.

Please note that this ordinance changes the fee structure but does not set a base rate fee level. The rate is determined on an annual basis during the budget process when the City Council votes on both a tax rate and a stormwater fee. Public Works has proposed a $25/base unit rate for the stormwater fee during this budget cycle, which we will consider this spring during our budget cycle (April-May). The map showing estimated fees under this new structure includes fee estimates based on this $25/500-sq-ft-of-impervious-space rate --i.e. if you have 1000 sq ft, you pay $50; if you have 4000 sq ft, you pay $200.

My rough analysis indicates that with this new structure of fees, 38% of Ward 3 single-family property owners would pay less than the flat fee rate of $108 needed to generate the same amount of revenue. Most would pay between $75-$175 (86%), and 93% would pay $200 or less.

In order to ensure a phase-in period for this new fee structure, the Council has added a fee cap for the first year, so no one would pay more than $275 the first year. It is also essential that the City work with property owners who may struggle to pay an increased fee. Additionally, the City needs to have an effective process for reviewing and making corrections as needed, as well as applying credit for people who make changes to reduce their impervious space. I also believe this is an important opportunity to share information about stormwater and encourage stormwater improvements on private property.

Moving forward, we know that stormwater will be an area that the City needs to focus on more than ever. Climate change is already causing increased flooding and water management problems, and there is a need to assist on private and public property. The Council will further consider work on these things during the budget process this spring.

First Reading Ordinance Approving FY21 Budget Amendment No. 5

I plan to vote in support of this ordinance. This amendment is a continued enactment of the vote the Council took last week to support spending $200,000 from the Housing Fund toward a "missing middle" housing project in collaboration with the Housing Initiative Partnership.
Kacy Kostiuk  -  -  202-617-9295
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