What is a stormwater utility?
A stormwater utility is a legal entity established as a means of funding and delivering stormwater management activities including administrative functions, planning, engineering, regulation, permitting, maintenance operations, and capital improvements. The stormwater utility (like other municipal utilities) provides a method of generating revenue for these activities through user fees and is based on the amount of impervious surface area on a property.
How do I pay my bill?
You may pay using one of the following options:
- CHECK BY MAIL: Use your bill stub and return envelope to Woodfin Town Hall, 90 Elk Mountain Road, Woodfin, NC 28804
- ONLINE: at https://woodfin.billingdoc.net
- BY PHONE: Call 828-382-8745
- IN PERSON: Submit cash, check, or credit card at 90 Elk Mountain Road, Woodfin, NC 28804
Who pays the stormwater fee?
All property owners within the Town of Woodfin corporate limits. This applies to properties with more than 400 square feet of impervious surface. Undeveloped properties, without any impervious surfaces will be exempt.
When does the stormwater fee go into effect? When is it due?
The fee went into effect on July 1, 2023 and coincides with the adoption of the town’s budget. All residents will receive a bill in September, with payment due in October.
How is the fee determined?
Fees are generally established according to the amount of stormwater runoff that is generated from a property, commonly measured in proportion to the square footage of impervious area within the property. To ensure fairness and equality for each individual property owner, the rate structure is a tiered flat fee for single-family residential uses and a per ERU fee for commercial and multi-family uses. An Equivalent Residential Unit or ERU for the Town equals 3,358 square feet of impervious area and the ERU rate is $5.96.
Monthly tiered fees for residential uses are as follows:
0-3350 SQ FT $3.42 / MO
3351-6000 SQ FT $8.10 / MO
6001-21499 SQ FT $15.58/ MO
21500+ SQ FT [PER ERU]
What is an ERU?
An “Equivalent Residential Unit”, or ERU, is a common billing unit for stormwater utility fees. An ERU is a measure of the average amount of impervious surface area for a single-family residential property located in a municipality and can be used to assess stormwater user fees. Much like a “kilowatt” serves as the basis for electrical utility, the ERU is the base unit for a stormwater utility. Many communities have established stormwater utilities based on the ERU.
What is an impervious surface?
Impervious surfaces are hard surfaces (such as rooftops, streets, parking lots, driveways, patios, asphalt, concrete, compacted gravel, and other paved areas). These surfaces prevent or limit the natural entry of stormwater into the ground. When stormwater hits an impervious surface, it runs off and does not soak into the ground. Runoff can generate high volumes of water and flows more quickly than water flowing over a vegetated surface, which can lead to flooding. It can also cause erosion in ditches and streams when the bare soil becomes exposed.
How does the town determine impervious area?
There are a few methods used to determine impervious areas but Woodfin, like many municipalities, considers GIS to be the most accurate and reliable tool for computing impervious surface areas. In 2022, the town hired Land of Sky Regional Council to convert aerial imagery into representative maps of impervious surfaces. Measurements are calculated to determine the impervious square footage of lots based on Buncombe County tax parcel data.
Why does the Town need to manage stormwater runoff?
The Town of Woodfin is required by state and federal regulations to provide a stormwater program to keep our waterways clean and mitigate flooding. Without proper stormwater management, rain events may result in flooding on roads and properties throughout the Town, leading to property damage and dangerous road conditions. Stormwater runoff must be channeled through a system of pipes, ditches, catch basins, and storm drains before being safely discharged into local creeks and rivers.
Even if a specific property has never flooded, the stormwater that flows from the property still contributes to the overall flow and must be managed so that it does not cause flooding or damage to property downstream.
Hasn't the Town always had stormwater infrastructure?
The Town has installed and maintained stormwater infrastructure within its right-of-way for a long time. The utility fee enables the Town to meet its responsibilities to maintain and improve the stormwater drainage system, plan for capital improvement projects, manage water quality, enforce stormwater regulations, and facilitate public safety and awareness.
Why has the Stormwater Utility Fee been recommended as a funding mechanism?
A stormwater utility fee is a "fee for service" based on the amount of impervious surface area on a property (roofs, parking areas, sidewalks, etc.). This approach has many advantages. First, it fairly distributes the cost of the Town’s stormwater services across all eligible properties based on the amount of impervious surface. Second, under State Law, the revenue from utility fees must be placed in a fund that can only be used for stormwater management activities.
Were other options considered to pay for the town's stormwater program?
Yes. Before creation of the stormwater utility, Woodfin Town Council considered various options and chose the stormwater utility fee as the preferred funding method. Most cities and towns favor the utility fee for funding stormwater programs because it is considered to be the most reliable and cost-effective way to meet the funding requirements of federal stormwater regulations. As a utility, all fee revenue collected is solely dedicated to stormwater programs and is not used for other City programs.
How will the money collected by the Stormwater Utility be used?
The revenue generated by the stormwater fee is used to fund all stormwater related services, which includes the Town's Stormwater Management Program, enforcement of stormwater ordinances, planning for future impacts, maintenance and repairs of the public stormwater system, and construction of necessary stormwater capital improvement projects.
The fee also pays for annual compliance requirements of Town's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (NPDES MS4) permit. For example, the stormwater system, composed of catch basins, pipes, and various control measures, ensures that stormwater runoff from the entire Town is managed properly to help reduce flooding, erosion, pollution, and property damage. The Stormwater Management Program is responsible for managing all aspects of the Town's NPDES MS4 Stormwater Permit from public education and outreach to illicit discharge detection and asset inspection, operation, and maintenance.
How much money will the stormwater utility collect?
The stormwater utility budget for FY 2024 is $391,000. The proposed expenditures include personnel costs, capital costs, and stormwater program implementation costs.
Have other towns implemented stormwater utilities?
Yes. There are approximately 100 stormwater utility fees across the State of North Carolina. You can find more information at the UNC School of Government Environmental Finance Center dashboard at this link: https://efc.sog.unc.edu/resource/north-carolina-stormwater-fee-dashboard/
What if I want to appeal my fee?
You may complete the form found here and return it by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to 90 Elk Mountain Road, Woodfin, NC 28804, attn. Stormwater Administrator. Staff will review the form and submit a written response regarding the appeal within 30 days.
What if I am unable to pay my bill?
Residents who are experiencing financial hardship are encouraged to contact ABCCM or other nonprofit organizations for assistance.