Selectboard Considers Stormwater Utility
Colchester has a long tradition of preserving and protecting its water resources for future generations. In 2013, the Town completed a four year $1.5 million study funded by the U.S. EPA. A key recommendation was to create a stormwater utility. Over the past eighteen months, the Town staff has worked with a Colchester citizen group known as the Stormwater Advisory Committee to develop this utility for consideration by the Colchester Selectboard. This committee represented a broad range of interests including home owners, businesses, institutions, and environmental groups. The Stormwater Utility under consideration is another positive step toward addressing the phosphorus and sediment levels in our lakes, ponds, and streams, and preserving and protecting our water resources for future generations.
The proposed Stormwater Utility would function like any other utility such as water, sewer, power, gas, where a fee for service is collected. There are over 2,000 stormwater utilities throughout the United States, including three in Chittenden County. The Town will benefit from this approach by improving its position to preserve and protect our water resources, address inadequate and failing stormwater systems, receive state and federal funding for these improvements, and have a more fair and equitable method for distributing stormwater costs throughout the community.
The Town’s current stormwater program is paid for through property taxes, which are based upon the assessed value of each property. The problem is that there is really no relationship between stormwater runoff and the value of a property. There are also a significant number of properties in Colchester that are exempt from property taxes and therefore do not currently contribute towards the community’s water quality needs. If the Town’s current stormwater program were funded largely through the collection of stormwater fees instead of property taxes, the Town would be able to significantly reduce the tax rate to be set in June of this year.
Working with the Stormwater Advisory Committee, Town staff has developed a number of educational materials to inform and educate our residents about the proposed Stormwater Utility under consideration. All of this information, including proposed ordinances and a searchable user cost database can be viewed at the following web address. http://colchestervt.gov/213/Managing-Stormwater