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Turbulent waters: Johns Creek City Council delays stormwater utility vote

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A flood of questions from the City Council June 7 derailed plans for Johns Creek to adopt a playbook for its new stormwater utility.

Following a lengthy work session and subsequent public hearing on the matter, council members opted to wait for more public input before activating an ordinance that would establish the utility, set rates and award credits, and define the city’s coverage.

Mayor Mike Bodker called it kicking the can down the road.

“I hear tin,” the mayor said.

Councilwoman Stephanie Endres urged the council to pass the utility ordinance as it now stands, even though she did not see it as a perfect solution.

Medlock river dredge (copy)

Workers dredge silt from the Medlock Bridge Subdivision detention pond in the spring of 2019. 

Johns Creek has been holding detailed discussions on establishing a stormwater utility for close to two years, but the issue has been finding an equitable plan to follow.

“From my perspective, stormwater utility was not a first choice,” Endres said. “Every single one of our stormwater systems is negatively impacted by no maintenance … as well as an increase in volume and velocity. And because of that, the sustainability of infrastructure of the city is at risk.”

Other council members, along with several residents who spoke, urged the council to abstain on a vote and allow more time for public discourse and conversations with various homeowners associations.

Councilman Lenny Zaprowski held that the council was simply, “not ready yet.”

Residents from St. Ives and other gated communities attended the hearing and argued they should not have to pay for the stormwater utility because they maintain private drainage systems and would receive “no benefit” from the utility.

They also said the 40 percent credit offered by the utility for property owners who update their own stormwater drainage was not enough, and they should be awarded additional credit for accommodating stormwater from outside their neighborhood.

One citizen recalled, “no taxation without representation.”

Endres and Bodker reasoned that a portion of the stormwater utility would cover the runoff from public roads, used by all community members. They said bearing the water of one’s neighbors is systemic and not unique to gated communities.

Some citizens said stormwater drainage is a “behavior problem,” that will continue to plague residents unless the city makes substantive changes to development best practices and aims to decrease impermeable land area.

Ultimately, the council opted not to vote Monday evening so more residents could weigh in on the issue and more studies could be conducted on the operation and financials of the utility.

Councilwoman Erin Elwood and Endres pushed to have the utility on the agenda for their next work session and meeting June 21, though Bodker said he found the suggestion that they would vote at the next meeting to be “optimistic.”

Reach Sydney Dangremond at 770-442-3278. Follow her on Twitter @syddang_.

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