You can visit kitsapsun.com later this evening to see how and
why the Port Orchard City Council
voted Tuesday to increase stormwater rates.
The lead up to this we’ve
covered extensively, and last night’s vote was a long time
Due to space constraints, I was not able to elaborate on an
issue that arose out of the utility committee’s discussion in June
of how bed and breakfasts should be assessed in the stormwater
Here’s a little background you’ll need:
Stormwater charges are based on impervious surface units, with one
ISU defined as 3,000 square feet of impervious surface, such as
roofs or pavement. Residential accounts, all deemed to comprise one
ISU, are charged a flat monthly rate, as specified in the city’s
Commercial businesses and multifamily dwellings are assessed for
the area of impervious surface on their property divided by 3,000
square feet multiplied by the monthly rate.
And here’s the long version of the second half of the
story that explains how, in one attorney’s opinion, the
reclassification of B&Bs as commercial could have far-reaching
impacts on all of the city’s homebased businesses.
“Gil and Kathy Michael, owners of Cedar Cove Inn B&B,
seconded a suggestion that ratepayers be credited for putting rain
gardens, pervious pavement and other stormwater treatment systems
on their properties.
The Michaels were required to mitigate stormwater runoff during
an earlier expansion of the historic home above Bay Street from
which they do business.
And the couple had another problem with the proposal, given that
the Cedar Cove Inn has been reclassified as a commercial
At the June utility committee meeting, members discussed how
B&Bs are assessed in the stormwater utility. The committee
considered a suggestion from staff that they should be classified
as commercial for accounting purposes.
“The way we handle the code and the way the account is set up is
if you have a business license, even if it is a home-based
business, you are technically commercial,” said Andrea Archer
Parsons, assistant city engineer.
Of the city’s three B&Bs, only Cedar Cove would be
significantly impacted, the committee realized. They asked staff to
see how other cities classify B&Bs for stormwater assessments,
and the report was presented Aug. 19 to the full council but no
action was taken.
On June 10, the Michaels got a notice saying their B&B would
be assessed as a commercial property “due the fact that they are
required to have a business license.” On Oct. 15, they got a notice
saying they would be charged for four ISUs.
Their attorney Gary Chrey on Tuesday argued that by extension
the “commercial property” rule could apply to all of the city’s
home-based businesses, and that could have unintended consequences
beyond higher utility rates. He listed higher real estate taxes and
more onerous building code requirements among a litany of
Public Works Director Mark Dorsey said he didn’t know where that
wording came from and that it needed to be looked at.
Chrey also took issue with wording in the city’s code that
defines commercial property as “all property zoned or used for
commercial, retail, industrial or community purposes.” The key
words here are “or used,” which technically broadens the definition
of commercial. Chrey asked that the code be reworded so the
classification is based on zoning only.
“I think we still need to do some work, based on what I’ve heard
here tonight. We have issues that are related to the increase,”
Councilman John Clauson said.
But the council didn’t want to delay the increase entirely and
put the city at risk of falling out of compliance with escalating
federal water quality standards.
Councilman Rob Putaansuu proposed a one-year graduated increase
from the current $7 per month to $9.70 per month on Jan. 1 and $14
per month on June 1 as a way to buy some time to sort out the
complicating issues. The increase to $14 is needed, Putaansuu and
others say, to fund capital projects that would control flooding
and improve water quality.
Putaansuu, John Clauson, Jeff Cartwright and Jerry Childs voted
for the ordinance. Fred Chang, Bek Ashby and Cindy Lucarelli voted
Chris Henry, South Kitsap reporter
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