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Hearing set for Johns Creek stormwater utility ordinance

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek City Council plans to hold a public hearing related to the city’s stormwater utility ordinance at its June 7 council meeting to continue addressing the pressing issue that has plagued the city for years.

Roughly 80 percent of the city’s stormwater management systems were installed before current best practice methods. As a result, the city has seen erosion, flooding and contamination of rivers and lakes, which has kept stormwater issues at the forefront of the city’s agenda.

The City Council identified the expansion of the city’s role in care and maintenance of the stormwater system as one of its strategic priorities. Throughout work sessions in 2020 and 2021, the council reached consensus to focus this effort by creating a stormwater utility, where all property owners would pay into a dedicated stormwater fund based on an objective rate structure and billing fee dependent on their property’s calculated runoff area.

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At their May 24 work session, the city council was presented with an ordinance to adopt the stormwater utility, service policy, credit manual and fee rate schedule.

The stormwater utility fee rate schedule formally establishes the rate structure and billing rate based on an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) of 4,000-square feet of runoff at a billing rate of $5.75 per month. The rate structure is based on runoff area because impervious surfaces have a direct correlation to stormwater runoff generated from a property and the use of the stormwater utility. The rate outlines six residential tiers and a non-residential rate of $5.75 per 4,000-square feet of runoff area.

Approximately 50 percent of all homeowners in the city will be billed one ERU for an annual bill of $69.

Credit secured and maintained through the stormwater credit manual would again further reduce the fee owed by property owners. The stormwater credit manual identifies 11 credits that property owners can qualify for, secure and maintain by meeting specific requirements to minimize a property’s impact on the stormwater system.

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The city estimates that they will take in about $3.2 million per year from the stormwater utility, which will fund repairs to stormwater infrastructure. Ben Song, community development director of Johns Creek, said the city estimates that $32 million will be needed for the repairs to the stormwater systems, plus engineering and staffing, over the next 10 years.

While councilmembers generally agreed that the stormwater utility was the best course of action, Mayor Mike Bodker and Councilman Lenny Zaprowski both expressed their desire for the city to make the repairs on a more expedited scheduled. Bodker and Zaprowski were concerned more damage will be caused the longer the system remains sub-standard.

“My overall concern is, more than anything, the length of time that it takes to fix this problem,” Bodker said. “It can be done by stepping back your extent of service, so that your financial needs are not as much, and instructing staff that you want to get it done faster…if you maintain an extended service that’s higher, then it probably means increasing the fee in the stormwater utility or finding funds outside the stormwater utility as I had attempted to do in prior years.”

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Another concern held by the council was the lack of engagement with the residents despite the city’s outreach efforts.

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres said that she felt that a public hearing was the best course of action to put all the residents on notice that this is coming.

“We want to hear from you, and let’s talk about how we got here,” she said. “It would be great if we didn’t treat it like we always do, where people just come in and talk to blank faces and we can actually address their concerns.”

The public hearing will be held on June 7 at Johns Creek City Hall. The city council meeting will begin at 8 p.m. that day.

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