Oct. 14, 2015 08:23

Stormwater Fees Now in Question

A Montgomery County circuit judge has declared the county’s stormwater management fee invalid, saying it violates a Maryland state law passed earlier this year. The law was intended to reform the controversial environmental charge.

The ruling only applies to Montgomery, for now. Yet it’s creating anxiety in Baltimore communities that still levy such fees to pay for reducing the polluted runoff that fouls local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

“My concern is that we may be in a similar situation,” said Vincent J. Gardina, director of environmental protection and sustainability in Baltimore County.

Gardina and officials in Baltimore city and Howard counties all said they or their lawyers are reviewing the Montgomery decision to see if it raises questions about their own fees.

Legal inquiries began after the owner of a 34-acre commercial development in Gaithersburg had been issued an $11,000 stormwater fee.

He, in turn, sued Montgomery County, contending that he shouldn’t have to pay anything, because he had put in ponds that collect all of the runoff from his property and neighboring tracts. The judge agreed, saying the fee should be limited to what it costs the county to treat runoff from the owner’s property.

Currently, the county has no plans to change its fee structure.

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