Anger Surges Over Stormwater Fee
JACKSON TWP. — In Allen Raczkowski’s eyes, the new stormwater fee imposed by the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is nothing more than an unfair “rain tax.”
Raczkowski, of Lehman Twp., spoke out during one of two public meetings organized Thursday by residents in opposition of the new fee.
“You are being taxed for rain. In my way of thinking, the only one who could tax for rain is God,” Raczkowski, 71, said.
At least 150 people attended the first informational meeting held at the Jackson Twp. Volunteer Fire Department and dozens more attended the second session.
Marian DeAngelis, 41, of Lehman Twp. organized the meeting as a citizen’s advocate and gave a slideshow presentation.
She said the new fee is particularly tough on rural residents with large parcels of “impervious” land, some of whom were hit with fees of several thousand dollars.
“They are being treated like they are Walmart. They are being treated like they are commercial,” DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis said many people are concerned about inaccurate maps used to calculate rates, an unfair tier system and the high costs to appeal.
The amount property owners pay depends on the amount of impervious surface area on their property.
WVSA used aerial mapping to determine how much was in each parcel. For property owners between 100 and 499 square feet, the new bill is $1 a month. For properties between 500 and 6,999 square feet, the bill is usually $4.80 per month. Property owners with at least 7,000 square feet of impervious area pay a monthly fee of $1.70 for every 1,000 square feet.
DeAngelis told the crowd the sanitary authority used flyover photos and publicly available aerial maps from Luzerne County’s website to create maps used to determine rates despite disclaimers on the county’s website that the information “has been prepared for assessment data only — not to provide engineering data.”
A former employee of Lehman Twp., DeAngelis encouraged residents to mobilize, start a petition, and unify around a local attorney willing to challenge the new fee.
The fee stems from a mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires municipalities with stormwater that eventually drains to the Chesapeake Bay to reduce sediment pollution by 10 percent, phosphorus pollution by 5 percent and nitrogen pollution by 3 percent.
“We have to stick together and fight this,” DeAngelis said.
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