Members of the
Kankakee Valley Historical Society and Izaak Walton League Porter County
Chapter attended Monday’s inaugural meeting of the Porter County Stormwater
Advisory Board, wanting to discuss the appeal process for the user fee, but
board members insisted it was “not appropriate” to discuss outside of a
A handful of
appeals have come in to the new Department of Development and Storm Water
Management since the fees went out with property tax bills last month, the
department’s director Robert Thompson said. Some of those are being resolved
by the administration, he said, in instances such as combining parcels under
The first person to
file an appeal was KVHS President John Hodson who wanted to make comments to
share his experiences. Hodson recently submitted a letter to Commissioner
Jeff Good and to the board outlining his criticisms of the appeals process.
Good said he
received the letter and asked Hodson not to talk about his appeal, informing
him that there will be a formal hearing where he can explain his case.
“We have a due
process,” Good told Hodson.
Hodson accused the
board members of not having “an open mind” as he was continually asked to
refrain from talking about his appeal.
“I think we have
been open-minded,” Good responded, saying the fee had been created due to a
members such as Jim Sweeney, president of the Izaak Walton League Porter
County Chapter, raised their hand to speak but were not called upon before
the gavel was dropped to adjourn the meeting.
Breitzke after the meeting backed Good’s position that “it was not
appropriate to address (the appeal) without having all the interested
“We want the public
to be aware of all the facts. It’s for their good as well as the good of the
petitioner,” Breitzke told the Chesterton Tribune.
One of the things
Hodson still requires for his appeal, according to Thompson, is notification
to surrounding property owners. Hodson argued he didn’t need to notify
neighbors since he filed the application before that amendment was added.
Public comment was
not part of the meeting’s agenda.
Both Breitzke and
Good told the Tribune the purpose of Monday’s meeting was simply to
orient the board with the protocols of the new department and ongoing
projects, not to have public discussion.
Good said notice of
the meeting was sent out for the sake of transparency.
The public will be
allowed to comment at future meetings at appropriate times, he said, just as
the drainage board allowed at its meetings.
As a county board,
the Stormwater Advisory Board is subject to Indiana open meetings and open
The reason so many
conservation groups have spoken out is “they don’t want to pay the fee,”
Good said. He said he finds it ironic since it was those same organizations
that lobbied for the MS4 storm water management mandate that prompted the
Others in the
audience who were not heard came to argue against the establishment of the
For residences, the
annual fee is $120 per year on less than 10 acres, $150 for properties 10 to
19.99 acres and $180 for 20 acres or more.
is $2.75 per acre annually and non-residential ranges from $15 per month to
The fee only
applies to properties in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Commissioners and Council enacted the fee late last year by public ordinance
and received testimony from numerous non-profit conservation groups that the
fee should be reduced or waived since their work is to improve water quality
and reduce runoff.
The ordinance laid
out an appeal process and conservationists were told by the Commissioners,
who make up the Stormwater Management Board with Breitzke, that decisions on
appeals would be made on a case-by-case basis.
A copy of the
appeal application was shown to board members on Monday by Robert Thompson,
Director of the Department of Development and Stormwater Management, which
states that it is “the burden of the property owner to show that the County
is faulty in assessing the storm water user fee.”
The property owner
is encouraged to supply any information that would support their appeal.
Reasons for an appeal, given as a checklist on the appeal application,
include incorrect identification of use of property for purposes of
determining a storm water user fee, mathematical errors, errors in
identification or that the property is not subject to the fee according to
appeals would be heard by the advisory board with a public hearing. The
board would either recommend to the Stormwater Management board to approve
or deny an appeal, similar to the County Plan Commission. One difference
however is that no public hearing would be held by the management board,
only by the advisory board, Thompson said.
But like the Plan
Commission, the applicant must notify neighboring properties by certified
mail their intention to appeal their fee.
The advisory board
will meet again on Monday, May 23, at 5 p.m. In the next few months,
meetings will be held in the County Administration Center’s lower level
meeting room so maps can be more easily viewed by the board and public.
Good added that
creating the new storm water department -- which encompasses the County Plan
Commission, Building Commission, Redevelopment Commission, and GIS
Department -- has brought much needed efficiency. The County has also
reduced its number of parcels by 10 percent by combining some properties,
making less work and cost in the Assessor and Auditor offices, he said.
Elections and staff
The first order of
business was for the board to choose its officers for the rest of the year.
Jim Polarek, a former County Councilman, was elected President and Scott
Severson is Vice-President.
department staff were made by Thompson. Assistant Director is Kristy Marasco,
MS4 Coordinator is Rich Hudson, GIS Manager is Chuck Miller, Drainage
Project Director is Dave Burrus, Project Manager is Rich Graeber and
Clerical Secretary is Beth Moench.
Thompson said the
department is close to hiring an engineer.