Claremore Daily Progress

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March 5, 2014

Council amends stormwater ordinance

CLAREMORE — The Claremore City Council unanimously voted to amend the city’s Stormwater System Service Charge during a regular meeting Monday.

The charge that went into effect Jan. 1, is a $2.50 flat fee for residential properties and a sliding fee for businesses, based on the size of the property.

Nonresidential service charge would be $2.50/2,650 square feet of impervious surface (rooftop and parking lot), said City Manager Jim Thomas.

Revenue will be used for the purpose of funding a backlog of needed stormwater projects, according to agenda information.

The amendment will remove exemptions for metered utility customers located within right-of-ways, clarify the service charge and include an income credit for businesses who have completed on-site retention and detention facilities.

The refund credit is capped at a maximum service charge reduction of up to 35 percent for non-residential property directly served by on-site retention or detention facilities. Residential utility account holders eligible for property tax refund/credit, or a homestead exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans, may apply for the credit.

Property owners will need to apply for the credit, and all matters will be handled administratively, said Thomas.

He said approximately $540,000 will be collected from service charge fees each year. Fifty-two percent of the revenue will come from commercial properties while 48 percent will come from residential.

The service charge fee has been studied since 2008 as a way to finance an estimated $30 million worth of stormwater drainage projects.. In 2010,  city officials completed the Claremore Master Drainage Study, identifying 52 problem areas.

“We have not yet prioritized which problem areas we will address first, said Thomas. “Our goal is to get the money and start addressing some of the general maintenance issues, dealing with the creeks and allowing water to flow.”

He said the administration feels confident about the amendment. Amendments were made to the 2013 ordinance after councilors realized that the charges may create challenges for some individuals.

“We looked at what was on the books now with the state statute, and City Attorney Matt Ballard came back with these proposals,” said Thomas.

Councilors approved the original ordinance last October to include exemptions for property located in rights-of-way, including highways and railroad right-of-way.

“The intention was to clarify that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, railroads and other entities that are not otherwise served by city utilities would not be assessed a service charge for such items as the railroad, streets and roads. For example, the city cannot charge ODOT a service charge for Highways 88, 66 and 20,” said Thomas in the agenda packet.

Since the Feb. 17 council meeting, it was discovered that a small number of businesses are also located within railroad right-of-way pursuant to lease agreements, but are city utility customer. It was not the intent of the city to exempt these businesses, he said.

Mayor Bill Flanagen said the new ordinance clarifies the 2013 ordinance by providing that the only properties that are exempt are those that are not served by city utilities.

According to the ordinance, all portions of any non-city property served by utilities will not be exempt from the service charge regardless of the property location in a right-of-way, including parking lots, structures or other improved areas located in a right-of-way.

All businesses would be subject to the charge and there would be no loophole for metered properties located in a right-of-way.

Claremore’s ordinance was modeled after the City of Tulsa’s which has been in place since 1986 to address stormwater concerns.

“I’ve spoken with three of the major industrial users, including Pelco Structural and Baker Hughes, and none of them have a problem with the service charge fee,” said Thomas. “We have a stormwater problem. I think we’re doing what’s responsible and I think we’ve been very transparent with the community.

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