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$7 stormwater fee in Lower Swatara likely by May 1; only non-residential owners eligible for credits

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/26/20

Lower Swatara Township hopes to have its monthly stormwater fee of $7 in place by May 1, but residential property owners who are looking to get credits to lower the cost are out of luck.

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$7 stormwater fee in Lower Swatara likely by May 1; only non-residential owners eligible for credits

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Lower Swatara Township hopes to have its monthly stormwater fee of $7 in place by May 1, but residential property owners who are looking to get credits to lower the cost are out of luck.

Credits for Lower Swatara’s stormwater fee will only be available for non-residential property owners such as Harrisburg International Airport, Penn State Harrisburg and churches, township manager Betsy McBride announced during a joint meeting between township commissioners and members of the municipal authority Feb. 19.

The township hopes to have the fee in place for the second quarter, or May 1 billing.

McBride said the township didn’t have enough manpower to review credit applications for both residential and non-residential properties.

“The dollar value of a credit on a $7 per month fee is not so great that I think we need to put manpower on that,” McBride said.

Township officials discussed revisiting the decision at a later time.

While residents will pay a $7 monthly fee, non-residential properties — any property that is not a home — will pay more based on how many equivalent residential units it has. One ERU is 3,750 square feet of impervious area, and one ERU carries a fee of $7.

The amount is a fee, not a tax, so tax-exempt properties such as churches and the fire hall will have to pay.

The township proposed four types of credits. The educational credit is meant for educating students kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education about the importance of surface water, groundwater, and stormwater resources and how they can play a role in preserving and restoring the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the township’s water resources, McBride told the Press & Journal. The school could receive up to a 10 percent credit, depending on how many students fall between that grade range. She said libraries, religious institutions and other non-residential entities could also qualify for this credit.

The second type is a low-impact parcel, which means that the impervious area (such as a parking lot or sidewalk) is either less than or equal to 10 percent of the total area of the parcel. McBride said these parcels could receive up to a 25 percent credit.

The third type is for peak rate and volume control, which is for entities who have an approved stormwater rate control system.

The fourth type is called a stormwater partnership, which is for entities such as Harrisburg International Airport and Penn State Harrisburg which could partner on a project or present the township municipal authority with an idea for a credit. How many credits are awarded depends on the project.

Credits will be given to non-residential property owners only if stormwater fee bills are paid on time every month and credits will not accrue, McBride said. Credits will remain in place through March 2023.

“We need people to take this seriously in order for this to work,” she said.

During the meeting, the commissioners and municipal authority also discussed having an option for paying the fee once a year, and what to do if someone overpays.

Before the township adopts its fee, Lower Swatara must transfer a loan from PennVEST for its storm sewer system to the municipal authority. PennVEST is the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority.