Montgomery lawsuit raises questions about Baltimore area stormwater fees
The so-called rain tax is being debated again — this time in court.It was always my contention that in the relatively urban areas in which it was imposed, the tax was deliberately designed to unfairly target the suburban and even rural residents with larger areas of impermeable surfaces, but even larger surfaces of natural land, such that less stormwater was created. I feel vindicated that a judge agrees with me on that, but I'm not convinced that the ruling will stand further review.
A Montgomery County circuit judge has declared the county's stormwater management fee invalid, saying it violates a state law passed this year to reform the controversial environmental charge. Though the ruling only applies in Montgomery for now, it's creating ripples of anxiety in Baltimore area communities that still levy such fees to pay for reducing the polluted runoff fouling local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
"My concern is that we may be in a similar situation," said Vincent J. Gardina, director of environmental protection and sustainability in Baltimore County.
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Hit with an $11,000 stormwater fee, the owner of a 34-acre commercial development in Gaithersburg sued Montgomery County, contending he shouldn't have to pay anything because he had put in ponds that collect all the runoff from his property as well as from neighboring tracts. Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr. agreed last week, saying the fee should be limited to what it costs the county to treat runoff from the owner's property.
In any case, the judge added, the landowner ought to get a pass if he's taking care of the runoff from his property.