If you own property in Shelburne with any impervious pavement — think house, driveway, parking areas, airline runway, interstate highway system — you are going to see your water or wastewater bills go up in October.
And that means just about everybody. Schools, churches, the state — even the town of Shelburne — will see costs rise to pay for stormwater runoff, said Shelburne water quality superintendent Chris Robinson.
“The state will receive a bill. The railway will receive a bill,” Robinson said.
The state will be charged for state highways in Shelburne.
Stormwater is water that runs off impervious surfaces, surfaces that water doesn’t easily pass through, like roads, driveways, parking lots and roofs. This water carries sediment and surface pollutants into waterways and erodes streambanks, according to a mailer that will be sent to all town residents in coming weeks.
The key factor in whether property will get billed or not is whether it has impervious surfaces. In other words: No impervious surface — no bill.
“So, if you just own a plot of land and there’s no construction on it, there’s nothing there at all, it’s just wooded, there’s no stormwater fee,” Robinson said.
Every developed property, whether it’s private or government, profit or non-profit, will get a quarterly bill.
Eventually, the fee will be $5.20 per month for property of an acre or less, but the fee will be phased in over three years. So, this year the bill is $1.72 per month, but since the bill is quarterly the cost this month will be $5.20 for July, August and September — added to water or wastewater bills.
Next year the quarterly addition to the bill will be $10.32 (three times $3.44 or two thirds of the $5.20 per month). The third year, residents with an acre or less of developed property will get a bill for $15.60 every three months, Robinson said.
Homeowners not on the municipal water or sewage systems will receive a separate bill for stormwater.
Single-family residential homes with greater than 1 acre of impervious surface will be assessed a fee of 10 times the flat fee of $5.20 or $52 per month, $156 per quarter.
Because it’s a flat fee, whether you own 2 acres or 100 acres, the fee is the same $52 per month, Robinson said, for single-family residential property.
The town is using three different categories for stormwater billing — single-family residential under an acre, single-family residential over an acre and non-single-family-residential properties. The non-single-family-residential properties include apartments, Shelburne Museum, businesses, a gas station or a school, he said.
Non-single-family-residential property will be charged based on the amount of residential impervious surface. The water quality department found that the average residential property in town has 3,801 square feet of impervious surface, so that became the basis for charging for non-single family residential properties or what the department calls an equivalent resident unit. That means a property that’s 38,000 square feet will be billed for 10 equivalent resident units or 10 times $5.20, which would be $52, Robinson said.
A plan to clean up stormwater
“Per state statute, Shelburne must reduce phosphorus delivered to Lake Champlain and the amount of stormwater flowing into Munroe Brook,” the town’s flyer says.
At least 12 years ago, the state designated Shelburne as a municipal separate storm sewer system, commonly referred to as MS4. This designation means a town is required to develop a plan for cleaning up stormwater flow into impaired watersheds.
“Munroe Brook is an impaired waterway. That pushed us into being a municipal separate storm sewer system permit holder, which is a federal permit, administered by the state,” Robinson said. “There’s a whole slew of things that are required, in addition to having a flow-restoration plan and a phosphorus-control plan.”
For a good bit of its length, Munroe Brook travels close to a lot of impervious surfaces, north along Route 7 and through several housing developments before heading west into Lake Champlain.
Shelburne has 14 passive stormwater treatment areas, but there are other treatment areas around town that private developments have built.
The stormwater fees go to the $500,000 estimated annual cost for Shelburne’s stormwater mitigation efforts.
If Shelburne is successful in its efforts to keep sediment and pollutants carried by stormwater out of Munroe Brook, will the stormwater fees go down?
“I would like to say yes, they would. But you have just built all these stormwater treatment practices that now have to be maintained,” Robinson said. “Who knows what our state’s going to put down for regulations? I can’t guarantee you there’s ever going to be a reduction like that.”