Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Izaak Walton a step closer to stormwater fee reduction

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The Porter County Department of Development and Stormwater Management hopes to grant reductions to four sets of parcels owned by the Izaak Walton League Porter County Chapter but said it will need a timeline to meet the appeal requirements.

At Monday’s Stormwater Management Board, Stormwater Management Engineer Mike Novotney said more information has been received from the League, a 501c3 organization dedicated to land conservation and preservation, since the appeal to waive or reduce the fee was first heard in August. The Board then asked about what public access these parcels offer, as that is part of the criteria to satisfy the requirements of the federally mandated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4).

Novotney said he would be ready to recommend a user fee rate of $1.40 per acre per year on three of the parcel sets that already have a conservation easement on them -- the Bedenkop Family Spring Run Woodlands property at 1167 North CR 575E, the Frame property at 1288 N. County Line Rd. and another the League owns near 1100 North on County Line Rd. in Pine Twp.

All three properties contain some form of public access and potential areas for public parking, Novotney said. The department can work with the League on putting up signage to educate visitors on how the water is being naturally treated on site, he said.

The other parcel discussed is known as the “Carol Cook” property in the 500 E area of Burdick Rd. Novotney said the recommendation from the department currently is to keep the fee at $120 per year, the residential rate for a home site less than ten acres.

Novotney said the League has provided a site narrative for potential site benefits but “we wonder about the timeline for the implementation of those improvements and the appropriate time of which to grant a reduction in the stormwater fee.” The department could grant the reduction once it has received the timeline, he said.

The $1.40 per acre is what Novotney calls the “conservation rate,” which is a reduction of the $2.75 per acre user fee charged to agriculture properties. The reduced rate is what the stormwater management board has granted to conservation groups like the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, which demonstrated its conservation easements and ways the public can access their property.

Izaak Walton League Vice-President Gary Allen and one of its directors, Donald Frame, said they were surprised that the Cook property would be the one in question since that’s the parcel that’s “easiest to fix.” By May, the League hopes to have a pathway to an elevated walkway and an observation platform overlooking the wetland. Frame said they have a permit to put in a driveway and have room for about ten cars.

The other properties have featured recent public events, Allen said. On the Frame property, 4-H groups, as well as Scouts, have been out and there is a birding festival planned for this spring.

Prior to the discussion, the board voted on a formal resolution to recommend to the full Stormwater Management Board, consisting of the three County Commissioners and County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke, establishing criteria for an appeal evaluation.

A summary of what applicants would need to submit for an appeal, according to the resolution:

-- A written narrative clearly describing the benefits the parcel is providing to the stormwater system,

-- A site plan showing compliance.

-- A written management plan describing activities of how to maintain and enhance stormwater quality.

-- Description of how the benefits would be protected in perpetuity. The protections would need to be an acceptable instrument.

-- The parcel must be accessible to the public.

-- Parking for the public must be on the property and have linkage for the public to observe the benefits of the stormwater management.

-- Signage displayed that would illustrate or describe the features benefiting the stormwater system. Other signage would need to provide hours of when the public can access the property or observe stormwater benefits.

-- The parcel must not provide direct benefits to the parcel owner. This would include farming, grazing, selling or leasing).

Board member Matt Keiser asked Allen and Frame if they had a chance to see the new list. They said they hadn’t and would be willing to submit more information if the full board does approve the resolution, which would be as early as Feb. 21.

“It sounds like only one or two things that you will need to qualify,” Keiser said.

“I concur with what you are saying. We would like to review that and would request a continuance,” Frame said.

Novotney said that what the League has turned in is “very good” so far and “exciting.” He said the timeline is the main thing needed for implementation, along with a description of how the Cook property would be protected in perpetuity since it currently does not have a conservation easement.

Board president Scott Severson commended the department staff on its work on the appeals resolution. “I think it’s a great first step,” he said.

The resolution will serve as a guideline for both the stormwater board and the appellant so there will be more transparency, Novotney said, as well as helping the County.

“It means its involving the public in mitigating increased stormwater rates, volumes and pollutant loads. It will help educate the public on the benefits of preservation and restoration and smart stormwater management,” he said.

The board tabled the League’s appeal as well as request from the Woodland Savanna Land Conservancy which owns a 13-acre island property in Long Lake near 600 N. in Liberty Twp. The Conservancy wishes to combine the two parcels under one fee instead of two.

 

 

Posted 2/14/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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