The Colchester Selectboard enacted a stormwater utility in May of 2017, with the first bills sent to residents and property owners the week of January 16, 2018. Below are some frequently asked questions about the stormwater utility. We encourage you to visit the Town's stormwater utility website to learn more, and to see a searchable database showing what every property in town will be paying for stormwater under the new utility. Please CLICK HERE to visit the stormwater website.
What is stormwater?
When rain falls, it is generally absorbed into the earth unless there is something covering the ground, like a driveway, parking lot, building, or some other compacted or impervious surface. This water that cannot be absorbed by the ground is called stormwater.
Why is stormwater a problem?
When stormwater runs off the land, it picks up and carries pollutants along the way such as automobile fluids, pesticides, fertilizers, pet wastes, bacteria, and sediment. All of these pollutants eventually end up in our streams, rivers, and Lake Champlain. Currently the State of Vermont and the U.S EPA consider Lake Champlain and several streams throughout the state, including two in Colchester, to be impaired by stormwater pollutants. When stormwater is not properly managed, it also causes street flooding, insect problems and other health risks from standing water, and property damage related to basement flooding and erosion problems.
What is a Stormwater Utility?
A Stormwater Utility is similar to a sewer utility or water utility. It is a Town department which generates revenues through fees for service. A stormwater utility is responsible for funding the operation, maintenance, and construction of the public stormwater system, and for stormwater system planning and management. A stormwater utility generates its revenue through user fees that are assessed to all properties regardless of their tax status, and the revenues from the stormwater charges go into a separate fund that may only be used for stormwater services.
What are the benefits
of a Stormwater Utility?
It will provide a
more adequate and equitable funding plan for stormwater management – Current funding is inadequate to address Colchester’s current stormwater needs. Property taxes are a poor way to fund stormwater as the assessed value of a property has little to do with how much stormwater a property creates. Many properties, including very large properties creating significant amounts of stormwater are exempt from property taxes, and therefore pay nothing toward the Town’s stormwater program. This includes the Vermont Agency of Transportation who has a significant amount of impervious surface in Colchester associated with the interstate and state highway system.
It will allow the
preservation, protection, and improved management of water resources into the
future – The Town has approximately 30 miles of shoreline, 107 miles of stream and rivers, 232 acres of inland waters, and 3,429 acres of wetlands covering 14% of the Town. The U.S. EPA has listed Sunderland and Morehouse Brook as impaired by stormwater. The Town’s smaller streams have phosphorus levels well above the standards as developed by the State of Vermont, and phosphorus levels in Lake Champlain exceed the acceptable levels established for these waters.
It will address
inadequate and failing stormwater systems – Much of the Town’s
stormwater systems pre-date modern stormwater design requirements and
regulations resulting in poorly treated stormwater and pollution of the
community’s water resources. Under
current funding levels, routine maintenance must often be deferred. Much of the
Town’s stormwater system has reached the end of its useful life and must be
replaced. Many areas of Town have no stormwater systems resulting in localized
flooding, property damage, and a negative effect on quality of life.
What will my stormwater fee be?
All single family residential properties will receive a flat fee of 1 ERU, or $52.39 per year which equates to $4.37 per month. For non-single family residential properties, their actual square footage of impervious surface will be divided by the square footage equivalent of 1 ERU which is 4,536 square feet. This will determine how many ERU’s exist on these properties which will then be multiplied by the ERU rate of $52.39 per year.