WEST HANOVER TOWNSHIP AUTHORITY (STORMWATER PROGRAM)

WEST HANOVER TOWNSHIP STORMWATER PROGRAM

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

  1. Why is West Hanover doing this Program?

Under the federal Clean Water Act and the state Clean Streams Law, the Township must develop, implement and enforce a stormwater management program to reduce the discharge of pollutants into streams under a general permit that is renewed every 5 years.  There are six minimum control measures that comprise the management program.  The Township must demonstrate compliance through submission of annual status reports.  The current permit was effective March 16, 2018 and expires on March 15, 2023.

 

  1. Why haven’t I heard of this Program before?

The Township has been operating under a general permit for stormwater discharges since 2003.  In 1990, the EPA established Phase 1 of its Stormwater Program which covered medium and large Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4). In 2000, EPA established its Phase II Rule which applies to small MS4s located in “urbanized” areas.  As a result of the 2010 Census, West Hanover fell within the Harrisburg urbanized area and thus subject to the EPA regulations.  Prior to this year, the Township included compliance with mandated reductions as part of its general operations and funded the program from local property taxes.  In 2019, as the pollution reduction program increased and became more burdensome, the Supervisors decided that it would be better undertaken by a separate body and funded from a fee rather than general property taxes.

 

  1. Who determines the required amount of pollution reduction?

Every 5 years as part of the Township’s permit renewal process, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) mandate certain pollution control measures that must be implemented by the Township.

 

  1. What types of projects will be undertaken?

As part of the permit renewal, the Township proposes a list of stormwater related activities and projects that it believes will allow it to meet the required reductions by the end of the permit cycle.  This is accomplished through preparation of a Township Chesapeake Bay Pollutant Reduction Plan (CBPRP).  This plan is submitted to DEP for its approval and, once approved, becomes the basis for the renewed permit. The Township’s current CBPRP was prepared in September, 2017.

 

  1. Who determines which projects are undertaken?

As part of the permit renewal process, DEP will provide the Township with its pollution reduction targets for the next permit cycle.  The Township will have the opportunity to propose a list of projects that it believes will meet the reduction requirements.  DEP will review the Township’s plan and either approve or deny.  If approved, those projects will be included in the Township’s next permit.  During the permit cycle, the Township has the ability to substitute projects provided that any substitution allows the Township to meet the reduction requirements.

 

  1. What are West Hanover’s current pollution reduction requirements?

By July 1, 2023, the Township must have reduced sediment by 10%, reduce nitrogen by 5% and reduce phosphorus by 3%.

 

  1. What happens if the Township doesn’t meet the conditions of the stormwater permit?

Failure to comply with the terms, conditions, or effluent limitations of the permit is grounds for enforcement action, permit termination or revocation.  In addition, if there is a violation of certain provisions of the stormwater permit, the Township can be subject to civil, administrative and/or criminal penalties under the US Clean Water Act and criminal and/or civil penalties under the PA Clean Streams Law.

 

  1. What other local Townships operate stormwater programs?

At present, Lower Paxton, Derry, Swatara, Lower Swatara, Harrisburg, and Susquehanna Townships operate or are establishing stormwater programs.

 

  1. Why am I being assessed a fee?

All West Hanover property owners who have greater than 800 square feet of impervious surface on their property are being assessed a fee.  In 2019, the Supervisors determined that a fee on all property owners whose parcels generate stormwater from impervious surfaces was more equitable than a tax on only taxable property owners.

 

  1. How is my fee being calculated?

The Township’s engineering consultants conducted a survey of all properties to determine the amount of impervious surface on each parcel.  The consultants used a combination of County property records, Township permit records and aerial photography to arrive at each parcel’s imperious surface.  It was determined that the typical residential property in the Township had 3,300 square feet of impervious surfaces (an “ERU”).  In order to meet the annual financial obligations of the Program, the Authority established an annual fee of $104 per ERU.  Your fee is calculated by dividing your impervious surface by 3300 and multiplying the result by $104. For example, if your property’s impervious surface is 1,650 sf, your fee is calculated as follows:

1650 /3300 = .50 x $104 = $52

 

  1. How can I pay my fee?

After this year, bills will be sent out at the beginning of each year.  The Township has retained Keystone Collections to handle the billing and collection process.  Property owners will have the option of paying the full amount or paying in quarterly installments.

 

  1. Will the fee remain the same each year?

The Authority is striving to keep the fee the same during each permit cycle which runs for 5 years.  The current permit requirements run thru July 1, 2023.  Maintenance of the current fee of $104 per ERU depends in part on the amount of stormwater credits granted by the Authority and the rate of fee collections actually experienced by the Authority.

 

 

  1. What if I don’t agree with the impervious calculations?

The Authority has established an appeal procedure that can instituted by any property owner that believes their impervious surface calculation is incorrect.  The appeal procedure is outlined in the Authority’s Rates, Rules and Regulations.  If the Authority determines that an error has occurred,  your bill will be amended to reflect the change.

 

  1. What will the fee be used for?

The fee will be used to pay for the six minimum control measures outlined in the Township’s current permit and pollution reduction projects included in the CBPRP. The general categories of these measures are: Public Education and Outreach on Stormwater Impacts; Public Involvement/Participation; Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination; Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control; Post-Construction Stormwater Management in New Development and Redevelopment; and Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping.  The stormwater fees will only be used for expenses related to stormwater and not for any expenses relating to other Township provided services.

 

  1. Who is going to do the work?

To the extent possible, the Authority will use the Township’s public works employees to do the work.  Only in the event our Public Works doesn’t have the time or the particular expertise will outside entities be used.  The administrative work will be undertaken by Township employees to the extent they have sufficient time. The selection of any outside consultants or contractors will be based on competitive proposals.

 

  1. How can I lower my fee?

The Authority has adopted a system of credits and incentives that a property owner can apply for to reduce their bill. The credits can be a simple as installing a rain barrel to as complex as constructing a stormwater detention facility.  The property owner can also reduce their amount of impervious surface by undertaking certain projects such as replacing existing pavement with pervious concrete.  A detailed description of the credits and the application process can be found in the Authority’s Rates, Rules and Regulations which is on the Township website or available for inspection at the Township’s office.

 

  1. What happens if I don’t pay my fee?

The stormwater fee is due 30 days from the date of billing.  Failure to make timely payments will result in a penalty of 10%.  In addition, interest at the rate of ½% per month will be added to unpaid amounts.  If the fees, penalties and interest remain unpaid for a certain period of time, a lien may be filed against the property.  Once the unpaid fees, penalty and interest reach a certain threshold, the property may be sold thru a tax lien sale to recoup the fees, penalties, interest and lien costs.

 

  1. Why isn’t the Township operating the Program?

In 2019, the Township Supervisors determined that the Program could be best operated by an independent board and reactivated the Authority and appointed its board members.

 

 

  1. What is the West Hanover Township Authority?

The Authority was created by the Township in 1985 and has been inactive for a number of years. The Supervisors reactivated the Authority in 2019 to operate this Program.  The Authority is governed by a board of directors consisting of five local residents appointed by the Supervisors to staggered terms.  At the end of each term, the Supervisors can either reappoint the member or appoint a new resident to fill the seat.  The only compensation the Authority members receive is a $50 fee for each meeting attended.  The Authority Board meets monthly at 6:30 pm on the first Wednesday of every month in the Township building at 7171 Allentown Blvd.  The Authority’s meetings are open to the public and permit public comment. Meeting agendas and minutes are currently posted on the Township’s website.  The Authority is in the process of developing its own website.

 

  1. What are the duties of the Authority?

Under a management agreement between the Township and Authority, the Authority duties include, but are not limited to, the following: (a) supervise the operation and maintenance of the System; (b) bill and collect all moneys due in connection with the System; (c) prepare and file reports relating to the operation of the System; and (d) determine what is required for the proper operation and maintenance, including upgrades, repairs and replacement of the System.

 

  1. Does the Authority have any staff?

Currently, existing Township employees are providing staffing services to the Authority pursuant to a Management Agreement.  Only in the event Township staff cannot meet the demands will the Authority consider retaining its own staff or using outside contractors.

 

  1. Who determines what the Authority spends?

The Authority prepares an annual budget for the following year that is submitted to the Supervisors each October for their approval.  The Supervisor must approve the Authority’s budget before it becomes effective.

 

  1. What if I have questions regarding the Program?

Anyone with questions should contact Janet Hardman at the Township office or attend an Authority board meeting.

 

  1. Can I suggest a project for the Authority?

The stormwater projects for the current permit cycle have already been selected and approved by DEP. There is the possibility of substituting a current cycle project provided it meets certain criteria which are yet to be established by the Authority.  The Authority will entertain suggestions for future projects to be undertaken by it during the next permit cycle.

 

  1. If the Township has been subject to a stormwater permit since 2003, why is a stormwater fee just now being instituted?

In 2010, EPA established limits (total maximum daily loads) for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment necessary for the Chesapeake Bay watershed to restore the Bay and its tidal rivers to health.  By 2017, practices should have been in place to achieve 60% of the 2025 pollution reduction goals.  Pennsylvania committed to urban/suburban stormwater runoff reductions of 30% for sediment, 27% for phosphorus and 25% for nitrogen by 2017.  However, by that time sediment pollution decreased by only 8%, phosphorus decreased by only 10% and nitrogen increased by 1%.  In the last permit round beginning in 2018, DEP revised the over 330 Phase II MS4 permits in PA’s portion of the Chesapeake watershed.  Small MS4s (including West Hanover) are now required to reduce loads of nitrogen by 3%, phosphorus by 5% and sediment by 10% over five years to meet PA’s Blueprint goals.  The specific numeric reductions of pollutants are new, as there was previously no targets to achieve.  The permittees must also identify specific practices to achieve these goals.  The cost of these new permit requirements has grown exponentially from prior years which has necessitated the establishment of the fee.

 

  1. Why wasn’t I informed of this new stormwater fee?

Beginning in 2019, there were two public hearings to discuss the stormwater program and the upcoming fee.  There have been articles in every Township Newsletter since the Summer of 2019.  Ever since November of 2019, all Authority meetings have been advertised and held in public.  There have also been several Township Supervisor meetings where the stormwater program and fee were discussed.  All of the Authority’s agendas and minutes are available on the Township’s website.

 

  1. Why not fund the stormwater program out of the Township general fund rather than with fees?

If the stormwater program was included within the general fund, it would necessitate a substantial increase in real estate tax rates.  The burden of the program would fall solely on the taxable property owners in the Township.  Since there are many property owners in the Township that are tax-exempt or have preferential tax assessments, a fee in lieu of a tax will spread the burden over a greater number of Township property owners.  The Supervisors came to the conclusion that a fee was more equitable than a tax.  Most, if not all, of the municipalities in our area which have stormwater programs have come to the same conclusion.

 

  1. How was my Impervious Surface calculated?

The most recent aerial maps from the Dauphin County GIS (2018) were used in calculating the Impervious Area. Permit information from Township records was also used.

 

  1. What is stormwater?

Stormwater is runoff water from all precipitation events, snow melts and springs.

 

  1. What surfaces are considered impervious?

An impervious surface is one that prevent the infiltration of water into the ground.  The definition is contained in the Authority’s Rates, Rules and Regulations which can be viewed on the Township’s website or inspected at the Township’s office.  Examples of surfaces or areas considered impervious include, but are not limited to, roofs, additional living spaces, patios, garages, storage sheds and similar structures, streets, sidewalks and vehicle and pedestrian areas that are gravel and crushed stone.  Decks are not considered as impervious if they do not prevent infiltration.  Currently, the surface area of pools is considered impervious.  The EPA considers pools to be impervious.  The Township’s Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance also considers pools to be impervious. The surface area of ponds is not considered impervious.

 

  1. What are the cost of applying for a Credit?

There is a $25 credit application fee.  The fee may, however, be waived at the Authority’s sole and exclusive discretion.  In addition, some credit applications may require the establishment of an escrow account to cover professional services for review of the application.

 

  1. When will I know if my Credit Application is approved?

The Authority or its designee will provide written notification of the credit determination within 60 days of receipt of a complete Credit Application.  If an Authority response is not made within 60 days, the the Credit Application is deemed denied.

 

  1. If my Credit Application is approved by the Authority, when will I receive the credit?

The Authority may approve credits retroactively through December 31, 2020.  Thereafter, credit applications must be submitted no later than 60 days prior to the start of the first billing quarter to which the credit will be applied.  For example, if you wish your credit to be applied to your 2021 fee, you must apply prior to November 2, 2020.  Credits approved in 2021 and thereafter will not be applied retroactively.

 

  1. Can I appeal my stormwater fee?

If you believe that the Impervious Area (IA) and or Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) calculation is incorrect, you may appeal the stormwater fee calculation.  The appeal must be filed with the Authority within 30 days of the charge being delivered to you.

 

  1. Is there a fee to submit an adjustment appeal?

There is no fee associated with submitting an adjustment appeal.  However, you are solely responsible for any costs incurred in the preparation and submission of the adjustment appeal and all required appeal documentation.

 

  1. When will I know if my adjustment appeal is approved?

Within 5 days of submission, an Authority representative will review your appeal for completeness.  The Authority has 60 days from the date of submission to either approve or deny your appeal.  If the Authority fails to take action within the 60-day period, your appeal is deemed approved.

 

  1. If my appeal is approved, when will I be credited with the adjustment?

Approved adjustments will be applied to the current stormwater bill and all future billings.

 

  1. If I reside in a neighborhood development that complied with the Township’s Stormwater Ordinance, am I eligible for rate, volume and quality control credits?

 

  1. If more than one credit is applicable to my property, can I apply for multiple credits?

You may apply for multiple credits.  However, the maximum credit that an individual property can receive is equal to __%.