Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County stormwater board moves forward with appeal process changes

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

While continuing to comply with the federal and state standards of the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Program (MS4), the Porter County Stormwater Advisory Board is looking to reduce stormwater user fees for property owners who can help educate the public about best management practices.

Staff of the County’s Department of Development and Stormwater Management presented a preliminary draft Monday of a resolution of criteria that would be used when considering lower fees, based on suggestions by board members at their December meeting.

The board this past year has approved appeals or reductions by groups like the Shirley Heinze Land Trust that have federally protected land and allow public access. Since then, it has talked of formally drafting a resolution for reduction guidelines.

In the draft by Department Engineer Mike Novotney, applicants would have to clearly indicate what benefits the parcel(s) is providing to the County’s Stormwater infrastructure. A management plan would be needed to describe what features are protecting the stormwater system and describe how the benefits are working. The benefits would be measured with a recordable instrument acceptable to the Department.

The proposed draft also states the applicant would need to tell how the property is accessible to the public to observe the benefits being provided and plans for public parking. If accepted, the property owners would have to post signage stating the benefits and how they operate. The owner would not be allowed to derive continued economic benefits from the parcel.

Novotney said the board can give more suggestions and a resolution may be ready to vote on at next month’s meeting, Feb. 13.

Board members Matt Keiser and County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, said they liked what is in the draft.

“It captures a lot of what we discussed and mulled over and if we do this it can be incorporated it into the permit application fee,” Keiser said.

Novotney said this will not only give the board a set of criteria with which to weigh appeals, but also let petitioners know what the board is looking for.

“It tells the applicant what the they need to give to us in order to consider granting a request for reduction,” he said.

Good said that when the County Commissioners as the Stormwater Management Board established the stormwater user fees for unincorporated areas, they knew there would be some follow up sometime after the program got started.

“After a year of going through this, we learned about some best practices and some other things that we did not incorporate into this at the time,” said Good. “Now we have a lot more real data and good information, there are people wanting to have a reduction in their fee because of whatever management program they are doing.”

But in exchange for reducing the fee, the Stormwater Management Board will be helped by property owners in satisfying its MS4 requirement of educating the public about stormwater management, Good said.

“It is something we have to comply with. This (resolution draft) is encompassing of all that and I like it too,” Good said.

From the audience, former MS4 Coordinator for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Reggie Korthals said the board is starting “something new and exciting” that meets the public involvement and participation and public education and outreach requirements of the MS4 permit

“You’re going to have something other counties are going to want to use,” she said.

Scott Severson, who was elected board president at the start of Monday’s meeting, said he would like the board to learn about the MS4 requirements. The County’s MS4 Coordinator Rich Hudson will make a presentation at a future meeting.

Izaak Walton hall

In other business, the board granted permission for the Izaak Walton League Miller Chapter to rebuild their meeting hall and other property improvements in a County regulated drainage easement with the conditions that it acquires the right permits from environmental agencies and the City of Portage.

Architect Doug Homeier of McMahon and Associates said the original building was lost in a fire a half a year ago and the new building will be about 600 sq. ft. smaller. The address is at 1269 Crisman Rd. in Portage.

The chapter is also adding new landscaping to filter stormwater before it drains into the ditch of the Burns Waterway, an arm of the Little Calumet River, and resurfacing the parking lot.

The board approved the request with a hold harmless agreement that the County would not be responsible for any damages occurring within the drainage easement. The easement is entirely within the Portage City Limits but Portage has decided not to acquire it from the County, County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke said.

Good said the Stormwater Board has begun talks with cities and towns about cooperatively managing the streams and ditches that cross the boundaries from the County’s unincorporated areas into municipal limits.

“We are trying our best to smooth those out so everyone has their own jurisdiction,” he said. “We want to get everybody in the right jurisdiction and everybody taking care of their ditches that run through their cities and towns so there will be a lot of memorandums of understandings with cities and towns to do the work as we see it.”

NIPSCO line

Also Monday, the board granted NIPSCO permission to access county drainage easements to complete installation of fiber optic line on existing electrical towers at two locations along Babcock Rd.

One is at the Gustafson Ditch near the Old Porter Rd. intersection in Westchester Twp. and the one farther south is at the Swanson-Lamporte Ditch near the Toll Rd. in Liberty Twp., Novotney said.

 

 

Posted 1/27/2017

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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