January 22, 2013
After nearly two hours of debate, discussion and hearing from the public, Charlottesville City Council opted to defer a vote on an ordinance to charge a fee to every city resident to fix a failing infrastructure.
"Simply put, the Water Resources Protection Program is simple, fair and well-reasoned," one supporter of the fee told council at its meeting Tuesday night. "It is a solution to the problem beneath our streets, and we support it."
The program would charge every property owner in the city up to $3.25 a month for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface on a property. Impervious surfaces are things like roofs, driveways and parking lots.
"So every 1,000 square feet of impervious on your parcel, you have a billing unit," said Jean Haggerty of AMEC Environment and Infrastructure.
All the money from the fee would be dedicated solely to the Water Resources Protection Program.
Despite a number of people speaking in favor of the fee, equating the bill to a cup of coffee each month, some city residents felt targeted by the rate.
"I think we ought to look at the way in which they propose to set this fee because I think it's very unfair," another city resident said. "There is no way any water is running from my roof to the city streets."
A citizen advisory board that gave guidance in the development of the ordinance looked at alternatives to raise $1.6 million in the first year of the program. One option would raise the tax rate by about 3 cents.
The board determined a utility fee would be the best option to meet and maintain water supply standards for the area.
Since council deferred the vote, city staff will amend the ordinance and present it to council at its next meeting. The amended ordinance will then go through two rounds of reports and public hearings before it could become law.