The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has started to issue letters to property owners informing them of new storm water assessment charges that will be levied by the City beginning July 1, 2010. Although this charge is not new, the method for calculating the fee is new and, in many cases, the amount of the fee may be substantially increased, especially for owners of property with large impervious areas, such as parking lots.

The new monthly charge will be applied to all nonresidential properties, which is defined to include almost every property except those with four or fewer dwelling units. The new fees will be phased in over a period of four years by blending the old and new rates until the fee is entirely based on the area of the parcel, with a significant multiplier for impervious surfaces.

The new area-based fees will be calculated for any single parcel by charging $0.526 for every 500 square feet of gross area, plus $4.145 for every 500 square feet of impervious area. The PWD notice to property owners contains a fact sheet setting forth the gross lot area and amount of impervious coverage for each parcel as determined by PWD. Property owners will be asked to verify these facts and water/sewer accounts.

The new fee structure is part of PWD's coordinated plan to reduce storm water flows that contribute to sewage overflows from the City's combined sanitary/storm sewers by raising funds to finance long-deferred infrastructure repair and maintenance. Under the new regulation, credits are also available for retrofitting properties to manage storm water. These measures typically will require engineering and construction of new infiltration or detention facilities. New projects will be subject to new regulations that include requirements to manage the first inch of storm water, which potentially may reduce exposure to the higher rates. 

PWD will also institute an appeals process limited to (a) possible error in identifying owners, (b) calculating site area or impervious coverage and, (c) improper apportionment of fees based on existing meters. If you have questions about the storm water charges, the notice received from PWD, or need for filing an appeal, please feel free to contact Joanne Phillips, 215.864.8702 or; Tina R. Makoulian, 215.864.8713 or; Harry Weiss, 215.864.8129 or; Matthew N. McClure, 215.864.8771 or; or any member of Ballard Spahr’s Zoning and Land Use Group. 

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