BRIGHTON, Colo (CBS4) It was standing room only in the Adams County Commissioners meeting on Monday, March 11 2013. More than 200 residents showed up to voice their complaints about a new stormwater utility fee. The Commissioners passed the fee in September 2012, and it went into effect on January 1st. Residents say they didn’t know about it until hundreds of dollars of charges showed up on their property taxes.
“We’re just flabbergasted. We have no infrastructure whatsoever compared to a municipality,” said Steve Cheresnick, a resident of unincorporated Adams County.
The fee was assessed to only residents in unincorporated Adams County. Residents in other areas of the county already pay a stormwater fee, as do residents in 33 other jurisdictions. The fee is not unusual, but most of the residents who currently pay it have curbs, gutters, and sewers – infrastructure that requires maintenance. Residents in unincorporated Adams County have ditches, culverts, and storm drains which they maintain themselves. And they say stormwater never even gets that far.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that Adams County wants to charge us for water that is absorbed on our own property,” said Dean Rumfola, an Adams County resident.
Deputy County Administrator Todd Leopold said that the Commissioners passed the stormwater utility fee to pay for a backlog of maintenance projects, and to handle the needs of the growing community in unincorporated Adams County.
“The money is going to primarily be used for both monitoring regulatory aspects of our stormwater system, in addition to major capitol infrastructure projects,” Leopold told CBS4.
The county calls it a fee, but neighbors say it amounts to a tax, and that’s illegal under Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights or TABOR amendment.
“If you’re going to take our money Adams County, let us vote on it,” said Kathryn Lawrence, an Adams County resident.
At the end of the public hearing, the County Commissioners proposed a new citizen group that would bring residents into the process as the county moves ahead with the fee. But residents are calling for a repeal of the fee and they’re not about to stop their campaign. They’ve started a website called www.stopstormwaterutility.com, they say they’ve collected more than 20,000 signatures on a petition, and they’re threatening a lawsuit if this doesn’t get resolved.
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– Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith