Cobb BOC delays decision on stormwater utility fees

A packed meeting room with Cobb County residents, many holding protest signs.

Photo: Caleb Groves

by Caleb Groves

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners delayed a decision on the proposed stormwater utility fee code amendments until August amid public opposition on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

The proposed stormwater fee structure would calculate fees based on the amount of impervious space on a property, rather than how it is currently calculated with the amount of water used on a property. Impervious space includes surfaces such as roofs, driveways and patios.

Advertisement

Monthly residential fees for impervious square footage would be determined in a five tier system that escalates with square footage, starting at $2 up to $12, according to Cobb County Water Systems Director Judy Jones.

“As water consumption increases, the amount paid for stormwater services increases. An alternative method for charging for stormwater services is a fee based on the amount of impervious surface on a property, because that is what impacts the County’s stormwater system,” Jones said in a letter to Cobb County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris.

Cobb residents’ have struggled in the past with flooding and sinkholes, with many incidents left unresolved. In response, the commissioners are seeking answers.

Pushback against the fee

Residents and commissioners were both clear that stormwater is an issue in the county, but how to address it was unclear. During the public hearing, 42 residents addressed their concerns regarding the stormwater fee.

Some speakers discussed transitioning county water system funds into the general fund and the water transfer, which, despite being unpopular among multiple speakers, is legal.

Other speakers suggested placing a greater burden of the stormwater fees on developers by charging them impact fees for large developments such as subdivisions or apartment complexes.

Richard Grome, president of the East Cobb Civic Association, recommended that the board table the item.

After public comment, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell opposed the idea of this funding structure due in part to the water transfer of up to 6%, or $15 million, into the county’s general fund.

Commissioner Keli Gambrill mentioned the vague definitions of ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘standard of maintenance’ in the new codes.

Jones said past issues and older stormwater systems do not have a definition for ‘standard of maintenance,’ only present and future issues.

“I think it needs more work and I don’t think it’s ready for a vote tonight,” Birrell said.

The BOC’s vote

The BOC voted 5-0 to table the stormwater code amendment and reconsider it until the Aug. 13, 2024 and Aug. 27, 2024 meetings.

“I want to see us get to the fee… but I want to see a pathway that also includes some of those stakeholder sessions, related both to the credit manual and the code,” Commissioner Jerica Richardson said.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said tabling the vote back to August allows time to educate and engage county residents, create a more detailed credit manual and work with stakeholders to address issues in the current stormwater fee proposal.

“There is never a good time other than the current time,” Cupid said. “This has been on the table for us for almost two decades at this point and we’ve only seen stormwater issues become worse.”

Advertisement