Beginning in January 2023, Upper Leacock Township will institute a new fee for property owners to offset costs associated with managing stormwater runoff. Single-family homes will pay a flat rate of $72 per year regardless of the square footage of the impervious surfaces on the property. Non-single-family properties will pay a rate based on the existing impervious area on the properties: each month, owners will pay $6 per equivalent residential unit, an area equal to 4,800 square feet of impervious surfaces. Credits are available for property owners who manage stormwater on their own properties.
Stormwater is rain and snowmelt that flows across surfaces that cannot absorb water, like roads, parking areas and buildings. Since impervious surfaces include any surface that will lead to stormwater runoff, the stormwater management fee will take into account things like gravel driveways, paved areas, sheds and barns.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, places like Upper Leacock Township that have municipal separate storm sewer systems, or MS4s, are required to implement stormwater management programs.
Kara Kalupson, the senior MS4 coordinator with Lancaster County’s engineering consultant company RETTEW, spoke about the stormwater fee in videos recorded for the township. In those presentations, she explained that stormwater runoff collects pollutants and trash and can impair local stream quality.
Various state and federal regulations require municipalities to comply with stormwater runoff guidelines. The federal MS4 program is overseen at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Upper Leacock Township’s website states that the purpose of the township’s stormwater management program is to comply with the regulations, to protect the water quality of local streams, and to ensure that stormwater runoff is conveyed to downstream areas as safely as possible.
Because the township’s stormwater program is not funded by the federal or state government, the township and its property owners must foot the bill. The township’s brochure about the new fee states, “A fee is more equitable than a tax because all landowners contribute to the program.” All properties with more than 500 square feet of impervious surfaces will face the fee, including tax-exempt properties like schools, churches and hospitals.
There was some public opposition to the fee, Kalupson told The Lancaster Patriot, mainly from single-family property owners who did not believe the stormwater on their property contributed to the township’s problem. Other community comments focused on concerns about how government regulations are increasing and how new fees are being imposed on the public.
Regardless of the public sentiment, the stormwater fee is moving forward and will take effect next year.