Adams County stormwater fees foment a rebellion of sorts from residents


From the Commerce City Sentinel-Express (Gene Sears):

Hundreds of angry property owners gathered Jan. 24, incensed over a county mandate to implement a stormwater utility and the soaring fees accompanying the measure. Those fees, levied against impervious surfaces on each property, resulted in annual payments due to the county in many cases in the hundreds of dollars where none existed before.

Promising “total transparency,” Adams County Deputy Administrator Todd Leopold addressed the throng, reassembled in a maintenance bay after overflowing a classroom at the station. Both Leopold and Adams County Stormwater Coordinator Andrea Berg shared the floor, taking questions while providing details of the project’s implementation. The pair faced a tough crowd, disillusioned by county efforts to inform and involve residents in the process leading up to levying what most see as a tax on their property.

The county says it adopted the fee schedule in response to an unfunded Environmental Protection Agency mandate, with the funds collected to “address water quality regulations, capital improvement drainage projects and flooding to the maximum extent practicable. Often drainage problems are not easily attributed to a single source, and are usually the result of a combination of things that increase the amount of impervious surfaces (roads, driveways, and development) and affect water quality (erosion, fertilizers, and petroleum products).”

Critics see it as a carefully crafted tax to boost revenues more than $5 million annually, on the backs of unincorporated residents with little or no recourse.

Most rancorous was the estimation of fees owed, which most saw as wildly inaccurate in relation to their actual impermeable surface areas. Some claimed hundreds of dollars assessed on properties with no impermeable surface whatsoever, such as farm fields and pasture. Taken from aerial surveys, the estimations were based largely on shading of roadways and rooftops, with a clear margin of error. The estimations ran into hundreds of dollars per year for properties with rooftops similar in size to suburban homes.

More stormwater coverage here.

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