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Brown seeks comments on storm water bills

Date: 5/24/2011

May 25, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD — If residents have a comment about the city's new storm water fee structure, or concerns about storm water billing, Ward Two City Councilor James Brown, chair of the council's Legislative and Ordinance committee, wants to hear about them.

He can be reached at .

Brown told Reminder Publications the Legislative and Ordinance Committee hosted a public comment about the storm water fees at its May 18 meeting, and heard from several residents who were concerned about the way the commercial rates are applied.

Under the current ordinance, Brown said, a three-family home is billed as a residential property, but a four-family home even one with an owner in residence — is billed as if it were commercial property.

The difference in storm water rates between these two classifications is steep — a residence pays $20 annually, divided into four quarterly payments of $5. Commercial properties are assessed a maximum of $640, or $160 per quarter.

The city's storm water assessment fee pays to process the rainwater runoff from what is classified as "impervious surfaces" — driveways, parking lots and sidewalks — on residential and commercial properties.

"You take a four-family property and compare that to a Home Depot or Wal-Mart and you say now, they are the same," Brown said of the way the present ordinance is written. "Obviously the impervious surface of a large retail complex [is different than] that of a four-family home. The rates probably should be different."

He added that under the state's tax code, a four-family home would be classified as residential property.

Brown said a motion came out of the Legislative and Ordinance committee by a vote or 3-0 to request the storm water revenue breakdown data from the Department of Public Works (DPW), specifically how much is generated by commercial versus residential properties.

"We want to know total revenue earned and proposed revenue for budget purposes and what the DPW thinks they need in order to support [ongoing projects]," Brown said. "We want to know what [the DPW] will be doing with this money, what are the projects."

Brown said a follow up meeting on the storm water situation had not been scheduled at press time.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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