Sewer District attempts to settle Regional Stormwater Management Program dispute with opposing parties
On June 7, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District filed a Report to the Court concerning the Sewer District's Regional Stormwater Management Program. In this report, the sewer district officially responded and agreed to amend its Stormwater Management Code to make changes to the Regional Stormwater Management Program as requested by Judge Thomas J. Pokorny in his February 15 ruling.
At the June 7 board meeting, the sewer district’s board of trustees approved issuing the proposed Stormwater Management Code changes to all member Communities, including Cleveland Heights and University Heights, for a 30-day comment period.
The most notable proposed change to the Regional Stormwater Management Program is the Community Cost-Share provision, which has been increased from 7.5 percent of fees collected annually from each member community to “no less than 25 percent.” Member communities can apply for these funds from the Sewer District and use the funds for local stormwater-related projects including construction, operation and maintenance of their local stormwater systems; projects that assist communities with EPA requirements; equipment purchases; and projects necessary to mitigate separate sanitary sewer overflow problems.
Additional modifications include:
- Large non-residential customers—those with more than 30,000 square feet of impervious surface area—will be charged according to a multi-level declining block fee structure. This new proposed structure will provide non-residential customers a discount based on property size.
- The sewer district will offer an additional stormwater fee adjustment for a non-residential applicant’s expense in engaging a licensed engineer to complete applications for Stormwater Fee Credits (up to 10 percent of stormwater fee).
- Stormwater-related curriculum—designed to not only improve watershed education throughout the region but also assist schools in obtaining the education credit—is being developed and is expected to be available the first quarter of the 2012–13 school year.
“These program changes show a good faith effort by the sewer district and demonstrate our desire to work jointly with regional partners,” said Julius Ciaccia, executive director, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. “We sincerely hope that, as a result of our combined efforts, the remaining opposition parties agree that this regional stormwater program is best for Northeast Ohio.”
Cleveland Heights is one of a handful of communities still opposing the Regional Stormwater Management Program. Settlement agreements were previously reached with the Cleveland Municipal School District, Diocese of Cleveland and the Catholic Cemeteries Association. Settlement negotiations are still ongoing with the Summit County Defendants and additional discussions are underway with several opposition communities.
Judge Pokorny has twice ruled that the Sewer District has the authority to implement the Regional Stormwater Management Program. In addition, he ruled that the charges associated with the program are fees, not a tax as argued by the Defendants.
The Sewer District filed the initial motion for declaratory judgment on January 7, 2010, the same day the sewer district’s board of trustees unanimously voted to adopt Title V, the section of the sewer district’s Code of Regulations that details of the Regional Stormwater Management Program.
A copy of the sewer district’s Report to the Court is online at www.neorsd.org/smp-ruling.
Jennifer Elting is a public information specialist with the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). NEORSD treats wastewater for the City of Cleveland and all or part of 61 surrounding communities, including Cleveland Heights.