Chapter 15.16
SURFACE AND STORMWATER UTILITY

Sections:

15.16.005    Intent.

15.16.010    Definitions.

15.16.020    Utility charges imposed.

15.16.030    Storm and surface water service rates.

15.16.040    Exemption, credits and adjustments.

15.16.050    Deposit and use of utility charges.

15.16.060    Impervious surface area or rate adjustments.

15.16.070    Billing and collection.

15.16.080    Severability.

15.16.005 Intent.

A. The city’s surface and stormwater utility is necessary to further the public health, safety and welfare by promoting a comprehensive approach to surface and stormwater problems, controlling storm and surface runoff and enhancing environmental protection. Developed real property within the city contributes runoff to the city’s stormwater drainage system while also benefiting from the system and, therefore, should share in a fair and equitable funding program. The surface and stormwater utility will protect the city’s aquatic resources, provide a response to reduce flooding and erosion damages, reduce the discharge of pollutants and improve fish habitat within the city.

B. The rates and charges established herein are intended to be uniform for the same class of customers and service and comply with applicable law. The rates and charges also provide a method to fund the surface and stormwater utility and to secure issuance of general obligation or revenue bonds for such services, if the city council should, in its discretion, deem necessary. Imposition of these rates and charges is also necessary to promote the public health, safety and welfare by minimizing uncontrolled surface and stormwater, erosion and water pollution; to attempt to enhance water quality and environmental habitat and resources; and to provide for comprehensive management and administration of surface and stormwater.

C. This chapter specifically incorporates herein by this reference BMC 15.04.005 as currently enacted or hereafter modified. [Ord. 2001-02-007].

15.16.010 Definitions.

Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter:

“Building” means a structure having a roof supported by columns or walls used for supporting or sheltering a use of any kind.

“Building footprint” means the combined area of the first floor of a dwelling unit and a private garage, as obtained from the Whatcom County assessor’s office records, or other source acceptable to the public works director or authorized designate.

“Developed parcel” means any parcel that has been altered from a natural state with or without a permit from the city. This includes clearing, grading or filling, whether or not that work accompanies excavation and construction.

“Duplex” means a building designed and arranged exclusively for occupancy by two families living independently of each other in separate dwelling units.

“Duplex parcel” means a parcel that has been developed and constructed to contain one duplex, and continues to be used solely for that purpose.

“Dwelling unit” means a single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for one family including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation.

“Garage, private” means an accessory building or a portion of the main building other than a carport used or intended to be used for the parking or storage of motor vehicles.

“Hard surface” means an impervious surface, a permeable pavement, or a vegetated roof.

“Impervious surface” means a nonvegetated surface area that either prevents or retards the entry of water into the soil mantle as under natural conditions prior to development or causes water to run off the surface in greater quantities or at an increased rate of flow from the flow present under natural conditions prior to development. Common impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, roof tops, walkways, patios, driveways, parking lots or storage areas, concrete or asphalt paving, gravel roads, packed earthen materials, and oiled, macadam or other surfaces that similarly impede the natural infiltration of stormwater. Open, uncovered retention/detention facilities shall not be considered as impervious surfaces for the purposes of determining whether the thresholds for application of minimum requirements are exceeded. Open, uncovered retention/detention facilities shall be considered impervious surfaces for purposes of runoff modeling. Impervious surfaces that meet the criteria for full dispersion or that are fully infiltrated in compliance with the Ecology Manual shall be excluded in the determination of thresholds for compliance with this chapter.

“Large footprint residential parcel” means a single-family residential parcel with a building footprint of greater than 3,000 square feet. Large footprint residential parcels are billed based on actual impervious area.

“Low impact development (LID)” means a stormwater and land use management strategy that emphasizes conservation, use of existing natural site features integrated and distributed, small-scale stormwater management practices that are integrated into a project design to more closely mimic natural hydrologic patterns of infiltration, filtration, storage, evaporation and transpiration.

“Medium footprint residential parcel” means a single-family residential parcel with a building footprint of greater than 1,000 square feet and less than or equal to 3,000 square feet.

“Multiple-family dwelling unit” means a building or portion thereof designed for or occupied by three or more families living independently in separate dwelling units.

“Nonresidential parcel” means a parcel which has been developed for any purpose other than a single-family dwelling unit or duplex and includes, among others, all multiple-family dwelling units and all property owned by governmental and nonprofit entities.

“Parcel” means any area of land within the city of Bellingham that is deemed a distinct property as identified by the Whatcom County assessor’s office, whether or not the parcel is considered taxable.

Predeveloped Condition. For areas that drain directly or indirectly to a river or stream, “predeveloped conditions” shall mean the native vegetation and soils that existed at a site prior to the influence of Euro-American settlement. The predeveloped condition shall be assumed to be a forested land cover unless reasonable, historic information is provided that indicates the site was prairie prior to settlement. For areas that only drain directly or indirectly to marine or estuarine waters, “predeveloped conditions” shall mean the site conditions as of September 1, 1995.

“Public works director” means the duly appointed director of the city of Bellingham department of public works.

“Right-of-way” means a strip of parcel of land dedicated for public uses including street, mass transit, bicycle, and pedestrian uses as well as emergency access, utility, drainage, vegetation management, view corridor or other necessary public uses.

“Single-family residential parcel” means a parcel which has been developed and constructed to contain one dwelling unit and continues to be used solely for that purpose.

“Small footprint residential parcel” means a single-family residential parcel with a building footprint of less than or equal to 1,000 square feet. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 3; Ord. 2012-12-062 § 1; Ord. 2001-02-007].

15.16.020 Utility charges imposed.

There shall be imposed upon every parcel of property to be developed within the city a surface and stormwater utility charge as set forth in BMC 15.16.030. “Parcel of property to be developed” shall mean any area of land on which is to be constructed a structure or hard surface(s) and regardless of the use to which such parcel is to be put (residential, commercial, industrial, public, not-for-profit, or other). [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 3; Ord. 10056 § 1, 1990].

15.16.030 Storm and surface water service rates.

A. The monthly surface and storm water utility service rate shall be as follows:

1. Small footprint residential parcel:

$5.08 per month effective on January 1, 2013;

$5.39 per month effective on January 1, 2014;

$5.71 per month effective on January 1, 2015;

$6.05 per month effective on January 1, 2016;

$6.42 per month effective on January 1, 2017.

2. Medium footprint residential parcel:

$8.47 per month effective on January 1, 2013;

$8.98 per month effective on January 1, 2014;

$9.52 per month effective on January 1, 2015;

$10.09 per month effective on January 1, 2016;

$10.69 per month effective on January 1, 2017.

3. Large footprint residential parcel:

$0.00282 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2013;

$0.00299 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2014;

$0.00317 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2015;

$0.00336 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2016;

$0.00356 per square foot of hard surface effective on January 1, 2017.

4. Duplex parcel and nonresidential parcel with a hard surface area of greater than 300 square feet and less than or equal to 1,000 square feet:

$5.08 per month effective on January 1, 2013;

$5.39 per month effective on January 1, 2014;

$5.71 per month effective on January 1, 2015;

$6.05 per month effective on January 1, 2016;

$6.42 per month effective on January 1, 2017.

5. Duplex parcel and nonresidential parcel with a hard surface area of greater than 1,000 square feet and less than or equal to 3,000 square feet:

$8.47 per month effective on January 1, 2013;

$8.98 per month effective on January 1, 2014;

$9.52 per month effective on January 1, 2015;

$10.09 per month effective on January 1, 2016;

$10.69 per month effective on January 1, 2017.

6. Duplex parcel and nonresidential parcel with a hard surface area of greater than 3,000 square feet:

$0.00282 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2013;

$0.00299 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2014;

$0.00317 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2015;

$0.00336 per square foot of hard surface area per month effective on January 1, 2016;

$0.00356 per square foot of hard surface effective on January 1, 2017.

7. Duplex parcels and nonresidential parcels with a hard surface area of less than or equal to 300 square feet are exempt from the storm and surface water service rate.

8. The rate charged by the city of Bellingham to the Washington State Department of Transportation for state highway right-of-way shall be 30 percent of the rate for comparable real property in terms of hard surface coverage, or as otherwise provided by RCW 90.03.525, as now enacted or hereafter amended.

9. The rate charged to the city of Bellingham’s public works street operations, road and street general services fund for city right-of-way shall be 30 percent of the rate for comparable real property in terms of hard surface coverage.

10. Unless otherwise abrogated by the city council, beginning January 1, 2018, and each year thereafter, the surface and stormwater utility rates levied in 2017 shall continue with an annual adjustment each year in January by an inflationary factor tied to the Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton index. The inflationary factor shall be calculated and rates shall be adjusted by the finance director in September of each year using 12 prior months of Consumer Price Index data.

B. System Development Charge. There shall be a system development charge on each parcel of property that is developed or redeveloped within the city of Bellingham. These charges shall be:

1. Six hundred seventy-eight dollars for a single-family residence.

2. For other than a single-family house, the fee shall be calculated at the rate of $0.226 per square foot of hard surface.

3. This charge shall be imposed upon all parcels to be developed or redeveloped and upon additions, alterations and remodels which add 3,000 square feet or more of hard surface. The charge shall be paid prior to the issuance of building permits or obtaining other city approvals.

C. The city council reserves the right to supplement or alter charges from time to time to ensure the long-term viability of the surface and stormwater utility and to guarantee debt covenants are met. The charges are, and shall be, equitable, fair, and uniform. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 3; Ord. 2012-12-062 § 2; Ord. 2006-05-047; Ord. 2005-06-051; Ord. 2003-10-067; Ord. 2003-01-005; Ord. 2001-02-007; Ord. 10056 § 1, 1990].

15.16.040 Exemption, credits and adjustments.

A. Exemption. Upon application by the owner, a partial exemption of not more than 80 percent of the system development charge imposed in this chapter may be granted to a low-income housing development, as defined below:

1. The director of planning and community development, after consultation with the director of public works, may grant an exemption to a low-income housing project listed in an annual consolidated action plan approved by city council.

2. The city council may grant an exemption to a low-income housing project not included in an annual consolidated action plan.

3. The decision to grant, partially grant or deny an exemption shall be based on the public benefit of the specific project, the extent to which the applicant has sought other funding sources, the financial hardship to the project of paying the system development charge, the impacts of the project on public facilities and services, and the consistency of the project with adopted city plans and policies relating to low-income housing.

4. An exemption granted under this subsection must be conditioned upon requiring the developer to record a covenant approved by the director of planning and community development that prohibits using the property for any purpose other than for low-income housing. At a minimum, the covenant must address price restrictions and household income limits for the low-income housing, and require that, if the property is converted to a use other than for low-income housing as defined in the covenant, the property owner must pay the applicable storm and surface water utility system development charges in effect at the time of any conversion. Covenants required by this subsection must be recorded with the Whatcom County auditor.

5. “Low-income housing” means housing with a monthly housing expense that is no greater than 30 percent of 80 percent of the median family income adjusted for family size, for Bellingham, as reported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

B. Credits for Qualified Existing Stormwater Facilities. The city of Bellingham recognizes that some property owners have constructed private on-site stormwater quality and quantity mitigation facilities (“facilities”), which may aid the city in controlling the overall effects of stormwater pollution and those other problems necessitating that the city enact this chapter. Properties or portions of properties with facilities that meet one of the criteria listed below, to the city’s satisfaction, shall receive a reduction of 20 percent from the monthly fee charged under BMC 15.16.030 as currently enacted or hereafter amended.

1. Any property with a properly maintained water quantity and quality facility that meets or exceeds the design requirements of the 1992 Department of Ecology Stormwater Technical Manual.

2. Any property that has an active and valid NPDES permit. A copy of the permit and the stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) shall be provided to the city. The property owner is responsible for providing all documentation necessary to demonstrate that the design and construction of any water quality and/or water quantity facility meets the above requirements. Documentation shall be by a licensed civil engineer with the state of Washington. In the event facilities or control measures address only a portion of the total property, the credit will be applied to only that affected portion. The property owner must maintain any water quantity and/or quality control facility in accordance with Department of Ecology maintenance guidelines and appropriate practice to ensure proper function and effectiveness of the facility. Failure to maintain the facilities within 30 days after written notice may be cause for termination of the credit granted in this section.

C. Credits for Qualified Existing Stormwater Facilities with Special Discharge Limits. Properties or portions of properties that have demonstrated compliance with the criteria listed within subsection (B) of this section and that meet one of the additionally listed criteria below, to the city’s satisfaction, shall be eligible for a reduction of 70 percent of the monthly fee (prior to application of any reduction or credit) charged under BMC 15.16.030 as currently enacted or hereafter amended. This credit shall replace any credit that the property may be eligible for under subsection (B) of this section.

1. Discharge of stormwater is directly to marine waters or waters under tidal influence with no connection to city systems; or

2. Discharge of stormwater is to an infiltration facility meeting the requirements of the Department of Ecology for stormwater treatment and ground water protection. The facility shall be capable of fully infiltrating the 100-year developed storm within the subject property. The design, performance and construction shall be certified by a licensed and qualified engineer with the state of Washington.

D. Public Education Credits. Publicly funded primary and secondary educational institutions that provide a curriculum in environmental science shall be eligible for a reduction of the monthly fee charged under BMC 15.16.030 as currently enacted or hereafter amended. The amount of the credit shall be established by contract between the educational institution(s) and the city; but in no case shall said credit exceed 70 percent of the amount of the monthly fee (prior to application of any reduction or credit) charged under BMC 15.16.030 as currently enacted or hereafter amended. The credit shall be calculated and applied after application of any other credit or adjustment from this section. The curriculum requirements shall be set forth in the contract and shall include, at a minimum, information on the cause and effects of stormwater pollution.

E. Special Credits for Partially Pervious Gravel or Approved Pervious Surfacing. Those properties that utilize gravel or pervious surfacing materials and systems for parking, driving or storage surfaces will be charged the standard rate for those areas as an impervious surface. The property owner may apply to the city’s department of public works for a special credit for gravel-surfacing or other approved pervious surfacing systems if the total area of such surfacing within the property is greater than 6,000 square feet. The credit shall take one or two forms.

1. The property owner provides a letter of request along with mapping of their site which shows the location of surfacing for which a credit is desired, along with a quantified square footage of the area in question. The city will review the information provided for consistency with the original delineation of impervious area. If the information is found accurate and the total area eligible for credit is greater than 6,000 square feet, a 20 percent credit will be applied to the area of the surfacing. The credit will be in the form of a reduction to the square footage used for fee determination. The property owner is responsible to apprise the city of changes to property that may affect any impervious surface determination or the amount or type of special credit.

2. The property owner provides a letter of request, mapping of their site, quantification of area and can demonstrate that the gravel or other pervious surfacing areas meet the following pervious performance standards:

a. The pervious pavement system was designed and is maintained in accordance with or exceeding the requirements contained in the Ecology Manual, current edition; or

b. The gravel or pervious surfacing and underlying soils to the depth of one foot are shown, by testing, to have a surface infiltration rate of at least one-quarter inch per hour as certified by a geotechnical engineer and the infiltration of water will not result in a violation of any applicable federal, state or local laws, rules or regulations regarding ground water contamination.

The special credit for demonstration of meeting pervious standards shall be a reduction to the impervious area of the site. The amount of reduction shall be one-half of the surface area(s) that meet the pervious criteria. The city may require recertification of the surfacing, for no cause, two years or more after the first pervious special credit has been given. If material changes have been made to the property, the city may require recertification at any time. Failure to recertify within 30 days of receipt of the city’s letter of request to recertify will result in the loss of the pervious special credit. The property owner is responsible to apprise the city of changes to property that may affect any impervious surface determination or the amount or type of any special credit.

F. The storm and surface water utility system development charge imposed by this chapter may be reduced for qualifying projects in targeted urban villages pursuant to BMC 20.37.030. [Ord. 2017-03-009 § 3; Ord. 2015-12-048 § 5; Ord. 2015-07-029 § 6; Ord. 2006-05-047; Ord. 2001-02-007; Ord. 10056 § 1, 1990].

15.16.050 Deposit and use of utility charges.

All charges received shall be deposited into the surface and stormwater utility fund created in Chapter 4.39 BMC, and shall be used for the purposes specified therein. [Ord. 10056 § 1, 1990].

15.16.060 Impervious surface area or rate adjustments.

A. Any person receiving a billing statement for storm and surface water service and after making a timely payment thereof, may apply to the public works department for an impervious surface area adjustment or storm and surface water rate adjustment. Applications for impervious surface area adjustments and/or storm and surface water rate adjustments shall be made to the director of public works within 45 days of the billing statement being mailed by the city.

B. The burden of proof shall be on the applicant to show that the impervious surface area and/or storm and surface water rate adjustment sought should be granted.

C. To be effective for the current billing cycle, applications for impervious surface area or storm and surface water rate adjustment must be made within 15 calendar days of the billing date. Applications received after 15 calendar days of the billing date shall only be effective for subsequent billing cycles.

D. The director of public works, or authorized designee, shall make a determination on the application to adjust the impervious surface area and/or storm and surface water rate within 30 calendar days of receiving the application. The director of public works may consider, in the director’s discretion, any information submitted by the applicant or the city. The director of public works shall notify the applicant in writing of the director’s decision.

E. If the director of public works, or authorized designee, grants an adjustment, which reduces the charge for the current billing cycle, the applicant’s account shall be credited the amount overpaid. If the director, or authorized designee, determines that an adjustment should be made which increases the charge due, the charge increase will be effective on the next billing cycle.

F. The director of public works’ determination shall be final unless the applicant appeals that decision to the city’s hearing examiner within 30 calendar days of the date the director of public works’ written termination was mailed to the applicant.

G. An applicant shall only be allowed to apply for an adjustment to the impervious surface area of a parcel once unless the applicant can demonstrate to the director of public works that the impervious surface area on that property has decreased.

Exception: Any application for adjustment within the calendar year 2001, that is found to be valid under the terms above, shall be eligible for reimbursement of any overcharge to March 1, 2001. [Ord. 2001-02-007].

15.16.070 Billing and collection.

All billing and collection of surface and stormwater utility charges and fees shall be done in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 15.04 BMC. [Ord. 2001-02-007].

15.16.080 Severability.

If any provision of this chapter or its application to any person, entity or circumstance is held invalid, the remainder of this chapter or the application of the provision to other persons, entities or circumstances shall not be affected. [Ord. 2001-02-007].