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Village Council Considers Study as First Step to Establishing a Stormwater Utility

Commissioners expect residents to become involved in the discussion.

Faced with a continuing and costly effort to operate and maintain the village’s stormwater infrastructure in compliance with state and federal regulations, the Village Council Tuesday discussed whether to approve a $64,000 study that could be the first step toward creating a local Stormwater Utility.

The goal of the proposed study is to give recommendations “regarding the possible creation of a stormwater utility, including suggested fees and funding sources,” said Public Works Director Nan Newlon. “We have an aging system of storm sewers in various stages of disrepair,” she said.

In addition, the village must comply with several government mandates, including the Clean Water Act. The question is how to pay for stormwater compliance, not whether or not we want to, said Mayor Martin Tully.

A stormwater utility would provide a dedicated revenue stream for infrastructure maintenance. Resident fees would be based upon the amount of stormwater their property generates, much as water bills are based upon usage. Some people like the idea because if they generate less, they pay less, Tully said.

 “We could simply raise taxes, we could borrow money… but [a stormwater utility] is viewed as a—potentially—more dedicated and equitable way to go about it,” he said. “I think we owe it to the community, we owe it to ourselves to fully explore the options.”

However, Tully questioned the study’s proposed $64,000 pricetag and questioned whether there were other options.

He and other council members also were emphatic that the village should not complete the study without the intention of following through on it. “I think the time is well here to make a decision on this going forward,” Tully said.

Commissioner Marilyn Schnell said residents will need to weigh in on what they view as the merits of such a system. “It’s controversial, it’s very difficult,” and you need a consultant to lead you through it, she said.

Commissioner William Waldack noted that residents will be very invested in the outcome of this matter. “When we do budgets, the public is very interested when we talk about raising taxes,” he said, adding that people are very specific about what services they do and don’t want. “This is going to affect your pocketbook—there’s no two bits about it.”

Other business:

  • The state’s proposal to cut local government's share of income tax revenue has been defeated, at least for now. “That measure did not succeed,” Tully said, thanking the colleagues and representatives who fought against it. However, Commissioner Sean Durkin expressed concern the measure may be revived this summer by the General Assembly and asked village staff to consider ways a projected short-fall might be addressed as part of upcoming Long Range Financial Plan discussions,
  • The results of the village parking study, now underway, will be presented to the council in September.
Scott C. June 08, 2011 at 05:21 PM
How does one determine the amount of storm water a property generates?
Elaine Johnson June 08, 2011 at 05:41 PM
I believe it has to do with the size of the home and other impermeable surfaces like the driveway relative to open ground.
Martin Tully June 08, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Scott: There are various formulas that can be employed, some very simple, some more complex. At the simple end of the spectrum, it could be done based on zoning category of the property, i.e. single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, industrial, open space, etc. At the other end of the spectrum, it could be done based on existing satellite imagery that identifies the size and approximate permeability of the subject parcels. Part of what the consultants will do is investigate and recommend manageable and efficient options for measuring stormwater run-off that make sense for our community, should we decide to pay for stormwater costs in this new manner.
Scott C. June 08, 2011 at 05:46 PM
I assumed as much (and recognize such a question is a little premature given the article's focus on very preliminary planning efforts) but was curious. That said, I wonder if things like rain barrels, plantings, etc. are taken into account. We have a new construction home and so displace more water than, say, our neighbor, but we've also intentionally developed a landscaping plan that incorporates multiple rain barrels, location of plants specifically for purposes of absorbing rainwater, etc. Its something we've been mindful of and so would hope such things are taken into consideration - although I think it would be a huge logistical challenge to do so (very time consuming and perhaps challenging to objectively measure).
Scott C. June 08, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Thanks Martin. That makes sense. Per my reply to Elaine above, its an issue we have been sensitive to and continually address in our landscaping efforts (we're weekend warrior green thumbs!). Hence, the curiosity. And I'm glad that Downers Grove remains proactive on such planning efforts. Keep up the good work!
Martin Tully June 08, 2011 at 06:54 PM
Scott: Yes, another element of this that the consultants will likely study and make recommendations on is whether, what and how to give "credits" to properties that take demonstrably significant steps to reduce the amount of stormwater run-off from their properties. Creating private, on-site retention/detention could be an example of that. Thank you for raising that point.
Elaine Johnson June 08, 2011 at 07:01 PM
Thank you for the clarification, Mayor.
Jim Pokin June 09, 2011 at 07:07 PM
Will my yard get credit for storing my neighbor's stormwater?
Bob LeMay June 10, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Good question, Jim!

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