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Stormwater is rain or snow that falls on streets, parking areas, rooftops and other developed land and either flows directly into nearby streams or travels there through drainage systems, such as curbs and gutters, inlets, storm sewers, detention ponds and channels. The flows are then discharged, untreated, into Georgetown County’s streams and creeks.
Everyone benefits. residents, business and industry owners, students, visitors and developers all benefit. It protects roadways, property, receiving streams and other waters. It addresses both flooding and water quality concerns.
Stormwater Utility Fee Ordinance (PDF)
It is a guidance and performance tool of the stormwater program. It contains rules and minimum requirements for the planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of all new drainage facilities within Georgetown County.
To request a stormwater plan review, you need to submit a completed and signed stormwater application and a completed/signed stormwater submittal checklist.
A stormwater utility is a County-created, separate entity that has been established to fund operations and maintenance functions on existing stormwater infrastructure, administration of the County’s federally-mandated municipal permit, engineering and technical review staff, and the design and construction of capital improvements.
Georgetown County faces a number of stormwater problems:
The County studied these problems and how they might be solved, and after looking at all the options for solving these problems, found that this was the best path. A stormwater fee is the most equitable revenue source to solve the County’s stormwater problems. The stormwater program will enable the County to comply with federal regulations as well as protect our community through improved drainage and protection of local waters. After studying the issue, the County Council passed an ordinance establishing the stormwater enterprise fund after three readings, on June 12th, 2007.
The county charges permitting fees for stormwater, which pay a portion of the cost for reviewing new development. In the future, additional state and federal program monies, such as grants, may be obtained for certain types of projects.
A stormwater utility is the fairest way to operate and maintain the county’s stormwater system, meet the requirements of the federal water quality permit and add capital improvements to mitigate existing flooding, erosion and sedimentation problems. Those that generate stormwater runoff from their properties will pay to fund the stormwater system.
The general fund budget has historically been used to fund stormwater operations. However, this source of revenue is used to fund many other county programs. In the past, higher priority has been given to the other general fund programs. Therefore, needed improvements and maintenance for the stormwater system have been delayed due to a lack of available funds.
The general fund is limited in the amount of revenue it receives each year. Boosting stormwater funding only through the general fund would result in cuts to other programs, such as public safety and parks. General fund revenues that were used for stormwater will now be made available for other programs.
A service fee is a charge imposed on property for the purpose of defraying the cost of a particular government service, such as countywide stormwater drainage. The service fee funds can only be spent on providing that service. A tax is imposed on property, acts, events or occurrences to provide revenue to pay any of the general expenses of government. The tax revenue can be used to pay for other government activities, such as fire, zoning, streets and libraries.
Stormwater fees are like those of other utilities such as water and sanitary sewer, which are based on the demand a user places upon the utility system. In the case of the stormwater user fee, each property’s stormwater runoff places demand on the County’s system of pipes, channels and flood and pollution control structures that make up the stormwater system. The stormwater system costs money to operate and maintain, and it must function properly to carry stormwater safely, decrease pollution and prevent flooding.
Impervious surfaces are hard surfaces that do not allow rain or snow to infiltrate at the same rate as natural surface, like grass or dirt. It includes surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, patio areas, sidewalks, parking lots and other man-made structures.
In general, compacted gravel areas engineered and maintained for vehicle travel may be considered impervious.
If your property is located on a Georgetown County-owned road you may put your request in with Georgetown County Public Works. You may contact them at 843-545-3438 or put in a work order with the County’s work order system called "At Your Request."
A Georgetown County Land Disturbance Permit is required when planning to subdivide land, planning to sell land, develop a commercial site, develop a residential site, or develop a multifamily residential site that is 0.5 acres and within 0.5 miles from a major water body, or 1 acre. Please visit the Georgetown County Stormwater Management website to access the flow chart to help you determine if your activity requires a Georgetown County Land Disturbance Permit.
To apply for a Georgetown County Land Disturbance Permit you will need to email a complete submittal to the Stormwater Department. For specific questions or to set up a preliminary submittal meeting, please call the office directly at 843-545-3524.
If you are planning on doing any work in the right-of-way of a Georgetown County-owned road, you will need an encroachment permit. Please submit a completed Georgetown County encroachment application (PDF), site plan, and review fee credit form by emailing Public Services.
Georgetown County Department of Public Services (DPS) manages a Watershed Team where members (made up of DPS Staff) discuss drainage problems that were submitted by Public Works or by citizens that were beyond routine maintenance. Discussions on how to solve the drainage issues lead to drainage studies and ultimately to designing drainage improvement projects. All drainage construction projects throughout the County are a direct result of a drainage service request. Many drainage projects need easements or access to install a drainage ditch or pipe on private property.
Georgetown County can only work on (in) Georgetown County-owned property, right-of-way, or a Georgetown County Easement. Georgetown County cannot work on a state (South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT)) road or private property. Many drainage systems flow across private property, state property, and County-owned roads. It is only on the County property that the County can work. When the County designs a drainage improvement project where easement may need to be acquired, staff seeks easements from private property owners. As a property owner, you’re not required to provide an easement to the County for the drainage improvement project, however, for some projects, without an easement, the project cannot be constructed.
The Stormwater Division will be happy to provide more information on the stormwater program. Call 843-545-3524 to talk to a staff member.
Stormwater fees are charged to properties as a line item on property tax bills.
If a customer believes that the stormwater user fee has been billed incorrectly, the customer must file a written appeal with the director of Georgetown County Public Services within 30 days of the decision or receipt of written determination from which the appeal is taken. The appeal shall include an accurate map or drawing containing information on the total property area, the impervious surface area, and any other features or conditions which may be of importance in the determination of the validity of the appeal.
Your stormwater user fee will be due on the same day as your property taxes are due. If you receive a stormwater-only bill, the fee will be due on the date printed on your bill.
Bills will be sent to the existing property owner. If bills are sent to property owners, it is up to the property owner to determine how the cost will be distributed among the tenants.
Yes, they are being charged the fee for their impervious area.
Property liens will be pursued for non-payment.
Unlike other utility fees, users can not decrease their fees by flipping a switch or turning off a faucet. However, users can ensure that their properties are developed in a way that lessens the demand placed on the stormwater system. Through a system of credits offered by the utility, non-single-family residential properties can have their fees reduced for certain ongoing activities that:
For more information on the crediting program, contact the county stormwater engineer.
The credits are only available to non-single family residential properties.
All properties in the county contribute stormwater to the system, so all should contribute to the cost of operating the system. A significant portion of the utility’s revenues will be used for maintenance, planning and water quality improvements to the existing system, including the one in your neighborhood. As the facilities in your part of the county age, they require a higher level of maintenance and eventual replacement. The remaining revenue will be used for capital improvement projects that will reduce flooding threats to life and property that currently exist. While the stormwater system in your area may be adequate to protect your neighborhood, the storm flows may contribute to problems downstream.
All new development will be required to follow existing county ordinances. These regulations require the developers to build storm sewer systems and stormwater detention facilities to manage the runoff generated by their developments. Once a lot is developed, that lot will be subject to the same stormwater fee as all the existing lots.
Every property in Georgetown County with 400 square feet of impervious area or more will pay a stormwater user fee. Single-family residential, multi-family residential and non-residential properties will pay the fee, including the County itself. While all developed properties will be charged a fee, it may be reduced for services provided, such as maintenance, reduction of developed flow discharges, etc., on non-residential properties. This reduction is called a credit.
Yes, all developed property in the county is subject to the stormwater fee. It is based on the demand a property places on the stormwater management system.
The stormwater user fee is billed once a year. Property owners will see the new fee on their tax bills.
The Equivalent Runoff Unit, or ERU, is the base unit for the stormwater user fee, similar to the base unit for other utilities. An ERU is a measure of the amount of impervious surface on a property. One ERU is equal to 3,770 square feet of impervious area. This is the average amount of impervious surface found at the average single-family residence in Georgetown County. The charge for one ERU will be $52 per year.
Residential properties will pay $52 per year, for one Equivalent Runoff Unit (ERU).
All non-single-family residential (NSFR) properties will be charged on the basis of measured impervious area rounded up to the next whole Equivalent Runoff Unit (ERU). Thus the number of ERUs on any NSFR property is equal to the total impervious area divided by 3,770 square feet and rounded up to the next whole number.
Owners of property with a fee, including Georgetown County and other owners of public buildings in the unincorporated county, are required to pay the stormwater user fees.
The amount of stormwater runoff originating from individual properties is significantly increased by the amount of impervious area on each property. The impervious area consists of houses, buildings and other structures; driveways, patios, parking lots, and other manmade surfaces that do not allow precipitation to infiltrate into the ground. Pervious surfaces include grass, pasture, cropland and most undeveloped land. Impervious surfaces decrease the amount of infiltration into the ground and increase the amount of runoff that will enter the county’s stormwater system.
Over the long term, the amount of impervious area on a property is related to the amount of stormwater that flows off the property and into the nearby streams and creeks. Impervious surfaces also increase the amount of pollution that is carried by stormwater runoff that is carried into the county’s drainage system and surface waters.
Billing based on the amount of impervious surface on a property is the most equitable method to determine the fee. Impervious surfaces decrease the amount of infiltration into the ground and increase the amount of runoff that will enter the county’s stormwater system. Over the long term, the amount of impervious area on a property is related to the amount of stormwater that flows off the property and into the nearby streams and creeks.
County Council can adjust the rate by passing a change to the stormwater utility ordinance. Based on program cost estimates and rate base increases, the rate is not expected to change in the first five years of the utility.
The County used aerial photographs to measure impervious surfaces, and the calculation is accurate in almost all cases, but the technology that currently exists cannot guarantee 100% accuracy. In most cases of error, the calculated amount will err on the side of the customer.
The stormwater utility fees will generate approximately $1.5 million in revenue per year. The fees will fund ongoing operations and maintenance, capital improvements needs and meeting requirements for the federally-mandated Municipal Stormwater Discharge Permit. The new stormwater program was developed through consultations with County staff members. Staff examined the county’s current program and stormwater program needs and issues and then recommended a program that would meet the county’s needs over time.
The enhanced stormwater program funded by the stormwater utility fees will enable the county to meet the requirements of its federally-mandated stormwater permit as well as fund drainage improvement projects, enhanced enforcement and compliance for new development, drainage studies and public education and outreach. Stormwater fees can only be spent and will only be spent on stormwater-related activities.
As with all major capital projects in the county, there will be a public process for each stormwater capital improvement project.
The stormwater utility is a county-owned business, under the Public Services Department. The stormwater engineer and public services director will oversee all operations of the utility.
County Council will approve the stormwater utility budget each year in a public meeting.
The stormwater utility will allow the county to make progress on the county’s capital improvement needs. Having the additional maintenance funding made available by the stormwater utility will prevent the backlog from growing at the rate it previously did as preventative maintenance will prolong the life of some infrastructure.