Since 1993, the city has had a stormwater utility ordinance that requires property owners to pay a user fee related to the operation and maintenance of the city’s stormwater system. The current stormwater utility ordinance was developed based on a 1992 Stormwater Utility Implementation Report prepared by McNamee, Porter & Seeley, Inc. This 1992 report is now 30 years old and has not been updated based on recent court rulings. The Michigan Supreme Court has since ruled on stormwater service charges, in particular as related to violating the “Bolt Criteria.” The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the stormwater service charge imposed by Lansing was unconstitutional and void on the basis that it was a tax for which voter approval was required and not a valid use fee. The Court established three criteria for distinguishing between a fee and a tax:
- a user fee must serve a regulatory purpose rather than a revenue-raising purpose
- a user fee must be proportionate to the necessary costs of the service; and
- a user fee must be voluntary--property owners must be able to refuse or limit their use of the commodity or service
The outcome of this study recommends the City adopt an updated methodology as a basis of billing for stormwater charges that meets the three aspects of the “Bolt Criteria.” This study has determined a methodology to assign all properties within the City their proportional share of the service cost to capture, convey, and treat the stormwater that runs off each property and to meet the needs of the City’s stormwater regulatory obligations. The study recommends using the direct impervious vs. pervious surface area and total property area to determine the property’s direct runoff potential. This entails an individual review of each residential lot by size/zoning classification and every non-residential property to calculate square feet of imperviousness for each parcel. Once PRP is determined, there are no zoning classifications or groups of properties. All calculations are based solely on impervious vs. pervious area and the particular benefit each property receives due to the stormwater system. Other general items that were looked at that affect stormwater were topography, soils, property maintenance, and access to stormwater facilities.