Stormwater fees on the rise in Holmes Beach

Stormwater fees on the rise in Holmes Beach
The stormwater fees paid by Holmes Beach property owners pay for projects to reduce flooding including the infiltration trenches being installed throughout the city. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – At the urging of City Engineer Lynn Burnett, commissioners have opted to move forward with raising the city’s stormwater fee from $1.50 to $4.40 per 100 square feet of property owned for the 2020-21 tax year.

The increase comes on the heels of a previous increase for the current 2019-20 tax year that saw the stormwater fee amount double from $0.75 to $1.50.

The increase was the highest amount recommended by Burnett who said that the additional funds are needed for resiliency and stormwater retention projects to reduce flooding during king tide and storm events. She said that commissioners could gradually increase the stormwater fee amount over a five-year period to get it to the needed $4.40 and face a deficit over the next several years. However, she recommended jumping now to the $4.40 fee to “put the city in a position of strength” with regard to resiliency projects. Burnett said that even with an increase in stormwater fees she would still be working toward securing grant and appropriations funds to further the city’s stormwater and resiliency projects.

Commissioner Terry Schaefer asked his fellow commissioners to consider offering an exception to the higher rate for property owners who could prove they’ve engineered their property to absorb stormwater runoff, such as the Key Royale Golf Club which he said is working toward that goal. Burnett said that if any exceptions are offered, the fee would have to go up for the remaining property owners to make up the difference. Currently, an exemption is offered for government property, submerged property and Anna Maria Elementary School.

Commissioner Kim Rash said he feels that places of worship also should be exempt from paying stormwater fees and that he was not in favor of asking the city’s property owners to pay such a high increase in fees.

Commissioner Carol Soustek said that due to rising costs to prevent floodwaters from taking over the Island she felt that it’s better to raise the stormwater fee now and reduce it later, if possible.

The matter will go before commissioners for a vote during their Dec. 10 meeting. If it passes commission vote, property owners will see the increase in August 2020 on their trim notices. Burnett said there is an appeals process for property owners that can be used on an annual basis and requires a written request to appeal within 30 days after the ordinance is adopted.

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