April 24th, 2014
By Stephanie Choate
Just a week after rain and spring thawing flooded the banks of streams and rivers, residents poured into the Town Hall to talk about stormwater.
The Williston Selectboard approved an ordinance for establishing a town stormwater user fee after holding a well-attended public hearing Monday night. Williston is among 13 Vermont municipalities required to improve stormwater management under the federal Clean Water Act. The funds raised from the fee would be used for those stormwater management efforts.
Unless an appeal is filed, the ordinance would become official in June. The fee would then go into effect in January 2015.
The fee would be based on Equivalent Residential Units, or ERUs, which is the median area of impervious surface of single-family residences in town. Most properties with single-family homes would equate to one ERU. Single-family homeowners whose property has an impervious surface area in the top 10th percentile of all Williston properties will be billed for two ERUs.
Fees for non-single family residences, such as businesses, would be calculated using a tier system based on the amount of impervious surface on the property.
Impervious surfaces include roofs, paved or gravel driveways, patios, decks and parking lots—anything rain would run off of, as defined by the state. Runoff from these impervious surfaces can wash sediment and pollutants into waterways.
Though the exact fee amounts have not yet been calculated, McGuire said the town estimates that most homeowners would pay approximately $50 annually.
Some may pay less, such as condominium owners whose fee would be based on the amount of land owned by the association. Some may pay more, such as property owners with large amounts of impervious surfaces.
The fees will be used to fund the required upgrades to Williston’s stormwater system, bringing it into compliance with state and federal regulations.
The next steps for the town are to develop a user fee credit manual, hire a stormwater coordinator, work out the billing system and continue working with neighborhoods and other holders of expired stormwater discharge permits.
Williston has 31 holders of expired stormwater discharge permits—26 of which are housing or commercial developments, two are schools, two are VTrans properties and one is the town. The town is working on ways to help those permit-holders come into compliance with regulations.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and January,” McGuire said.
All the neighborhoods with expired permits have signed a memorandum of understanding that they intend to work with the town, rather than leaving the permits up to the state to enforce. McGuire said town staff expects to see results of the permit holders’ engineering feasibility studies by October, which will give them an idea of how much work is required to upgrade the systems.
“We’ll have a lot of information coming in,” McGuire said. “We’ll sort through it and figure out approaches for helping the neighborhoods bring these things up to standard.”
If neighborhoods go through the process of getting their systems evaluated, upgrading the systems to meet the standards and providing the town with proper easements, the town will take over the responsibility of maintaining that system, McGuire said.
BRUCE FARM ALLOCATION APPROVED
During its Monday night meeting, the Selectboard also opted to allocate $218,320 from the Environmental Reserve Fund to help purchase the development rights on the 146-acre Bruce Farm off Oak Hill Road, just south of Butternut Road. The fund is used for the conservation and protection of land in Williston.
The town’s Conservation Commission and the Vermont Land Trust have been working together on the project. The Vermont Land Trust has applied for a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for the remainder of the funds needed to purchase the development rights, $197,500.
If the deal goes through, no development could take place on the property. Landowner Michael Bruce would retain the farm and continue farming, but should he decide to sell it, it would still be conserved. He also agreed to donate a trail easement that would help connect trails on the Isham Family Farm and Five Tree Hill.
The board also voted to approve updates to Williston’s Unified Development Bylaws, adding a chapter that established standards to protect and preserve significant natural, scenic and fragile areas.