New Hanover County’s Stormwater Services Program began in 2020 and helps to ensure the continued upkeep of the stormwater management system throughout the unincorporated areas of the county, and relieves property owners of the responsibility of maintaining and cleaning ditches and pipes on their property.
The new service only applies to property owners in the unincorporated area of the county (see map below) and is offered to all properties in this area regardless of whether a pipe or drainage ditch exists on the property. The service does not include the City of Wilmington or the county’s beach towns. The service does not include road drainage, as road flooding or clogged roadside drains fall under NCDOT maintenance.
Like all county programs, the Stormwater Services Program is managed during a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30. During the first year of the program in 2020, fees were not collected due to the financial impacts of COVID-19 on residents, businesses, and organizations. Instead, around $4 million in funding provided through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program was utilized to remove hurricane debris from hurricanes Florence, Dorian, and Isaias.
For the current fiscal year from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, New Hanover County is utilizing American Rescue Plan funding to pay a portion of the fees for property owners in the unincorporated county, and the rate will be $1 per Equivalent Rate Unit (ERU) per month.
A single-family residential property will pay a flat rate fee of $1 per month – or $12 per year – for the program during the current fiscal year.
Non-residential properties developed with impervious areas such as rooftops, asphalt, and sidewalks pay based on the amount of impervious surface. The formula for this is: amount of impervious area in square feet divided by 4,000 square feet and then multiplied by an ERU. For this current year (Fiscal Year 2021-2022), the ERU will be $1 per month as mentioned above. (As an example: a business with 40,000 square feet of impervious surface pays a fee of 40,000/4000=10, then 10x1 (ERU) for a total bill of $10 per month or $120 total for the current fiscal year).
The Stormwater Services fee is billed as a separate line item on New Hanover County tax bills for property owners in the unincorporated county (tax bills are mailed in August each year). For properties such as undeveloped land, boat slips and individual condominiums, a Stormwater Services fee of $0.00 will appear on the tax bill.
All fees collected as part of the program will go directly to funding stormwater maintenance and improvement projects.
If a property has a county stormwater permit, a discount of 31% is applied to the fee for both residential and non-residential properties. This discount is automatically calculated and applied to the fee because of the benefit to the overall county stormwater system provided by maintaining the permitted system.
Properties within the unincorporated area that have not been developed are not charged a fee.
Properties within the City of Wilmington or the beach towns are not charged a fee through the county.
The county anticipates the rate for an ERU to be $5.65 per month for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2022.
Stormwater runoff is the water that flows over the ground as the result of rain, snow, hail and sleet. Buildings, streets, driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, and patios prevent the water from soaking into the ground. These structures are referred to as impervious surfaces.
As the runoff flows across the ground, it picks up pollutants and carries them into local waterways, and then into the ocean.
It is important to manage stormwater in order to reduce flood risks that may impact public safety and loss or damage of property, and prevent polluted stormwater from flowing directly into rivers and streams.
A stormwater service is a legal entity that can provide stormwater management activities including administrative functions, planning, engineering, regulation, permitting, maintenance operations, and capital improvements. The stormwater service (like other utilities – i.e., power and water) provides a method of generating revenue for these activities through user fees.
New Hanover County began exploring the process of implementing a stormwater services program in 2017 and on December 16, 2019, the Board of Commissioners approved the program, a fee structure, and additional staff needed to implement the program.
New Hanover County held stakeholder meetings on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, to get public input and feedback on a possible Stormwater Service. Meetings were held with large landholders and developers, non-profits and churches, commercial property owners, and the general public.
An informational meeting, drop-in online public meeting was held Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The meeting allowed property and business owners to speak directly with an engineer from the Engineering Department as well as a representative from our consultant Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. They helped property owners by accessing records of properties, gave accurate depictions of how the program will benefit properties, and explained how stormwater fees are calculated.
A nominal fee supports these services and only applies to property owners in the unincorporated areas of the county.
From July 2021 through June 2022, the county is utilizing American Rescue Plan funding to reduce the fees of the program to a rate of $1 per Equivalent Rate Unit (ERU) per month.
What that means is a single-family residential property will pay $1 per month – or $12 per year – for the program during the current fiscal year.
Non-residential properties that have been developed with impervious area such as rooftops, asphalt and sidewalks pay based on the amount of impervious surface. The formula for this is: amount of impervious area in square feet divided by 4,000 square feet and then multiplied by an ERU. For the current fiscal year, the ERU will be $1 as mentioned above. (As an example: a business with 40,000 square feet of impervious surface would pay a fee of 40,000/4,000=10, then 10x1 (ERU) for a total bill of $10 per month or $120 for the current fiscal year).
What will the fee normally be?
The county anticipates the rate for an ERU to be $5.65 for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2022. So that means residential property owners will be charged a set fee of $5.65 a month (or $67.80 a year); and commercial properties, nonprofits, churches, and any other non-residential properties will be charged a fee based on their impervious surface area.
Properties developed since September of 2000 that maintain stormwater control measures under a county permit will receive a 31 percent discount since less maintenance from Stormwater Services will be required.
The Stormwater Services fee is not a tax, but it will be collected once a year through the county’s property tax bill (sent in August) and will be listed as a separate fee for property owners in the unincorporated area.