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Date of Issue: June 21, 2007

Storm water fee a 'bad investment' says Woodland

The Anna Maria city commissioner who two years ago spearheaded the idea of a stormwater utility fee as a method of financing drainage improvements in the city now says the whole concept is a "bad investment," and further discussion is a "waste of time."

Commissioner Dale Woodland made his comments at the June 14 commission meeting after commissioners reopened discussion of the fee in the face of looming budget cuts at the city and county level as mandated by the Florida Legislature during its recent tax-cutting session.

Woodland withdrew his support for the fee two years ago after he realized the city would be financing projects for a 10- to 15-year period, but the projects would only have a life-span of a few years.

"I really hate having this discussion," said Woodland, who chastised his colleagues for failing to grasp the significance of the fee.

"I’m disgusted that no one understands the financial implications. In 2005, it was a bad way to pay for those projects and I can’t seem to make you understand."

"Borrowing money for a 15-year period for a project that won’t even last 10 years at the most is simply not the best way for the city to do business, he asserted.

"The city’s line of credit to finance capital improvement projects is working just fine, while a stormwater utility fee is "just not going to work," he maintained.

"The draft proposal calls for an annual fee of $206 from the owner of a single-family residence for a 10- or 15-year period.

" "But time is against the city.

"To implement a stormwater fee for the 2008-09 budget cycle, the city must have an engineer’s study done to validate the fee and its value. That study would cost about $10,000 and must be done before the city notifies the Manatee County Property Appraiser and Manatee County Tax Collector that it intends to use those offices to collect the fee. The deadline for notification for the 2008-09 budget cycle is Jan. 1, 2008.

"That doesn’t leave the city with a lot of time, noted Commission Chairman John Quam.

"Following Woodland’s impassioned plea, Mayor Fran Barford said she would discuss the study with the city’s engineering firm to establish the scope of such a study. She’ll bring that information to the commission’s July worksession.

Quam cautioned that nothing has been decided about implementing a stormwater utility fee, it’s simply a discussion item at this point.

In other business, city planner Alan Garrett presented commissioners with a revised draft of proposed site plan review procedures.

While commissioners agreed with most of the proposals, several were hung up on Garrett’s idea that an applicant could obtain a variance during the site-plan review process if he or she could demonstrate that the proposed "deviation" results in a "superior design."

Sorry, said Commissioner Duke Miller, but "superior design" is too subjective.

"I can already hear a judge saying that a superior design is not defined in the procedures. Let’s be more specific."

Woodland, along with Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Christine Tollette, agreed.

"It should be spelled out," said Mattick.

Garrett will bring the suggested revisions to the July worksession for further discussions.