Industrial and commercial property owners in Olathe are set to pay more for storm water management over the next few years as city officials try to reduce the burden they said is currently shouldered by homeowners.
During a budget workshop Tuesday night, Public Works Director Mary Jaeger said the city plans to increase the fees non-residential property owners pay to control storm water by 12 percent in 2019 and again in 2020. Jaeger said the increases could likely continue by similar amounts in 2021 and 2022.
Residential storm water fees are expected to remain steady during that time, she said.
The city is seeking “rate equity” between the two groups of property owners, which officials said has become unbalanced because of how Olathe pays for flood control projects and storm gutter and sewer maintenance.
Olathe currently charges residential units a flat rate of $5.77 a month for storm water management. For non-residential property, the city charges fees based on the total amount of square feet on the lot, maxing out at $289 a month for a lot of more than 500,000 square feet.
Residential lots tend to absorb a large amount of rain and snow while commercial and industrial lots typically have parking lots and larger roofs, which send more storm water flowing into street gutters and storm sewers. Because the rates don’t consider these impervious areas, city officials said commercial and industrial properties are not adequately meeting their obligations.
“This is just basically what it costs to treat residential storm water, what it costs to treat commercial storm water, and making sure residential is not subsidizing commercial,” Jaeger said.
In addition to increasing the non-residential rates, the city would increase the rate cap from 500,000 square feet to 700,000 square feet in 2019 and to 900,000 square feet in 2020.
“This represents a functional shift in the cost for residential and commercial,” said Councilman John Randall.
Councilman John Bacon asked whether the rates took into consideration non-residential properties that did attempt to capture and retain more storm water on their sites.
“They may spend millions of dollars on a retention pond or some other method … that they're holding back all of their runoff and yet we’re still going to hit them with this,” Bacon said.
Jaeger said her office could look at creating a policy to award credits to property owners who invest in their own storm water mitigation projects. But she said most commercial and industrial property owners in the city only do what is required under federal law when it comes to storm water control.
“If a commercial property came to us and did more than that we would be more than happy to talk to them about their impact on the storm water fee,” she said.
While residential storm water rates are not expected to change, the city is proposing a 3.5 percent increase in water rates and a 4.5 percent increase for sewer service.
The council plans to hold additional budget workshops on July 17 at the Olathe Community Center, on July 24 at City Hall and potentially on July 31 at the community center again. A public hearing on the 2019 budget is scheduled for Aug. 7 with the council set to vote on the spending plan on Aug. 21.
The new budget goes into effect Jan. 1.
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