No stormwater fee relief for residents

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HOLMES BEACH – There won’t be reduced stormwater fees on any Holmes Beach property owner’s trim notice in the fall.

Commissioners voted in December to raise the city’s stormwater fee to $2.95 per 100 square feet of lot space from the $1.50 per 100 square feet that property owners paid in 2019. After receiving some feedback from residents and owners with larger properties, including the Key Royale Club’s golf course management, commissioners committed to discussing whether or not to allow exceptions to the higher stormwater fees for certain property owners, such as churches, the golf course on Key Royale and low-income residents. That conversation ended during a Feb. 11 work session when commissioners decided that no exceptions to the stormwater fee will be given.

City Engineer Lynn Burnett presented commissioners with options, including giving low-income property owners and the golf club a break on the increased fee, decreasing it down to the current $1.50 fee. The issue, she said, is that by reducing the fee for some, it would mean the burden would have to be carried by other property owners and it would take longer to fund the repairs and replacements needed on the city’s failing infrastructure. Burnett said that even properties with their own stormwater infiltration systems and retention ponds are still a part of the problem creating flooding situations on the Island.

“Every inch of property on this Island, except Grassy Point, contributes to the problem,” she said. With higher than normal tides and heavier rainfall events, Burnett said the overdevelopment of the Island is creating too much strain on a failing system that’s outlived its useful years.

Commissioner Jim Kihm said that with a huge bill in front of city leaders for repairs and replacement, he felt the $2.95 stormwater rate already voted on should stand.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “We’re all part of the problem. My feeling is that we all need to be part of the solution.”

While Kihm said he doesn’t like raising fees or taxes, funding has to be secured to fix the infrastructure problems.

“It costs something to live here,” he said.

Commissioner Terry Schaefer said he wasn’t in favor of lowering the $2.95 rate.

“I’m paying my fair share,” he said. “It’s worth the investment for the city to protect the future of what could become an inundated island.”

“You don’t want to walk out of your house into a pond,” Schaefer added.

Commissioner Carol Soustek said that if commissioners agreed to go with the stormwater fee already voted on, she didn’t think there could be exceptions.

“Everybody gets the tax, everyone pays the same,” she said.

If the city is successful with the Bert Harris Act cases facing it, Soustek said she hoped the funds put in reserve for that can be used to help fund infrastructure improvements and lower the burden on property owners.

“It’s a burden on everybody, we all have to pay the price,” Kihm said.

Though there are no exceptions to the fee, property owners still have the option to appeal the fee. Appeals have to be submitted to the city clerk’s office in writing. Appeal forms are available at Holmes Beach City Hall.

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