Pennsylvania Authorizes Creation of Municipal Stormwater Authorities – User Fees May Follow
On July 9, 2013, Pennsylvania Governor Corbett signed into law an amendment modifying the Municipality Authorities Act that expressly authorizes the creation of municipal stormwater authorities. Among other powers, the authorities would have the power to charge fees to property owners. Municipalities may join with other municipalities to create stormwater authorities on a watershed basis. They may also add stormwater management and planning functions to water or sewer authorities that already exist.
The creation of municipal stormwater authorities was not previously prohibited, and indeed some municipalities have already instituted stormwater user fees, including Philadelphia. However, according to the co-sponsorship memorandum prepared by Senator Edwin Erickson, “[s]everal municipalities in Pennsylvania that have considered creating stormwater authorities have been reluctant to do so in the absence of express authorization by the General Assembly.” Senator Erickson further states that the legislation will “create a stable source of funding for municipal stormwater management planning and projects . . . [and] could also provide incentives for private stormwater management that would reduce costs to local governments and taxpayers.”
It is not yet known how many municipalities will take advantage of this legislation by creating new stormwater authorities, and further the amendment does not provide how those authorities will be created, what shape they will take, or how their fees will be calculated. It is known that municipalities facing budget constraints are being forced to spend more money to comply with their own stormwater permits and to address impacted watersheds within their boundaries, and the additional funds collected by user fees are intended to help manage and finance these stormwater projects. Landowners and developers in Pennsylvania should be alert to the fact that new stormwater fees may be on the horizon, and that these fees will probably take into account the property area and the percentage of the property that is impervious. The assessment of a stormwater user fee and the way it will be calculated could also have a significant impact on the economic value of projects that are currently in development.
The amendment will become effective on September 7, 2013, so local municipalities may take steps to create stormwater authorities as early as this fall. Please contact Jonathan Rinde or Bridget Dorfman if you have questions about this new law.