Hanover’s new stormwater service program launched, new fees will come into effect next month
NEW HANOVER COUNTY –– New Hanover County’s new stormwater utility program will soon be in full swing, with teams embarking on a multi-year effort to identify and map the flow of stormwater in the unincorporated county in society.
Approved in December 2019, the new program marks the county’s first dedicated foray into field stormwater service work.
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“This is the first time we’ve stepped in and said, ‘Hey, this has come to a level where the county needs to have a program on behalf of residents instead of forcing them to do it,” said Jim Iannucci, the county engineer. “We were getting to a point where it was becoming difficult for individual owners to do this maintenance themselves.”
The program actually started last summer, but officials have opted out of charging residents for fees due to Covid-19. Instead, the county hired contractors using $ 4.3 million Federal funds allocated by the Emergency Watershed Protection Program to remove debris accumulated in 13 watersheds in the region as a result of Hurricane Florence.
Prior to the start of the program, the county’s engineering department had a small annual budget of $ 140,000 used for specific stormwater improvement projects – nothing close to the system-wide effort at at hand.
A new price
As the engineering department takes on a new 13-member staff to carry out the program, new fees will be billed to unincorporated county residents on their property tax bill as a separate line. .
“In the past, we would have an owner go into this ditch and remove this debris. And if they didn’t, we would actually have to hire a contractor and place a lien on the property to get those funds back so that their freezing doesn’t flood someone else, ”Iannucci said. “So that’s really a different way of looking at it. “
As of July 1, fees for most single-family residential properties over the next fiscal year will be equivalent to about $ 1 per month, thanks to funding from US bailout commissioners approved to apply for the program. By the next fiscal year in the summer of 2022, the monthly fee will increase to $ 5.65 for residential properties.
If a property is already connected to a county licensed stormwater system (i.e. a developed neighborhood with a community stormwater pond), homeowners will automatically receive a 31% discount.
For non-residential properties, charges will be calculated according to a formula that takes into account the impervious area present. For example, a commercial enterprise with 10,000 square feet of waterproof area would divide the area by 4,000 and then multiply it by the equivalent rate unit ($ 1 in the next fiscal year, $ 5.65 in the year next) or $ 14.12 per month by next summer.
And my ditch?
Fee questions aside, many unincorporated landowners are wondering: Will the county come and clean up my ditch?
It will be at least a few years before the new program is able to answer this question for every unincorporated property owner. First, inspectors must inspect all means of transport that carry stormwater throughout the county. With the exception of licensed systems, the overwhelming majority of these means of transportation – be it a pipe, a ditch, or a stream – are yet to be mapped. Many are located in backyards, Iannucci said, complicating the process of determining where and how the water flows.
Once the database is established, the county may have to go through an extensive easement acquisition process later in the program. If a means of transport has an easement, stormwater personnel can access it at any time and leave a door hanger; otherwise, crews must obtain permission from the owner before entering.
Homeowners are free to mow and maintain their easements up to the edge of the ditch, Iannucci said. “Where we are focusing is the flow that crosses that divide itself,” he said.
Ultimately, the program could result in the cutting of trees in overgrown or poorly maintained ditches.
The goal is to improve the overall flow of the area, through a long-term, system-wide lens – “we should look at it from a watershed approach,” said Iannucci.
To answer questions regarding the fee calculation and what the program will do, the county is organizing a Zoom meeting June 23 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information on the stormwater service program, visit website in the program.
Send advice and feedback to Johanna Ferebee Still at [email protected]