Smithfield Considering Stormwater Fees For Businesses And Homeowners

A drone photo of flooding at ARI on South Brightleaf Boulevard following 5 inches of rainfall in July 2019. Town of Smithfield Photo

Flooding issues have been a growing problem in Smithfield in recent years.  Several streets in East Smithfield and some businesses along South Brightleaf Boulevard have been among those recently impacted. 

In 2017, the Town of Smithfield was awarded a $70,000 grant to study stormwater issues. In 2018, Jewell Engineering was hired to identify, prioritize, and submit a plan to address stormwater quality problems. In July 2019, the Stormwater Management Action Plan was completed and presented to the Town Council. It recommended forming a Stormwater Advisory Committee (SWAC). The Committee was appointed in November 2019.

From January to October 2020 members of the SWAC met and discussed strategies and made several recommendations.  One of those recommendations was to create a Stormwater Management Fund to generate revenue to pay for improvements. 

Currently, Smithfield is spending about $70,250 annually from the General Fund on stormwater programs and services.  Approximately $56,250 is for drainage maintenance and repair, leaf and limb collection, street sweeping, public education and outreach.  $10,500 is spent on engineering and $3,500 on planning and inspections.

Proposed $3 Monthly Fee For Homes
The committee recommended the Town Council adopt a new stormwater utility fee to generate revenue to pay for extensive improvements.  The proposal includes a fee for an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU), or a measure of the impervious surface area for a single family home within the town limits. 

Parcels would then be billed based on how much impervious area is on the lot, regardless of the total area.  The SWAC reviewed three proposed levels, which would charge residents either $1, $3 or $5 per month. 

The committee recommended Level 2, or a flat rate of a $3 per month stormwater charge for each single family home.

Proposed Business Fees Would Vary
Under Level 2, businesses would be assessed a monthly fee based on the impervious area of their property. For example, Classic Ford would pay $144.77 per month under the new stormwater fee; Penn Compression $41.82; Neuse Charter School $172.06;  Heavner Furniture Showroom $254.83; Pine Needle Plaza $418.86; Carolina Pottery $2,085.22; and Johnston Health $1,368.72 each month.  

The bill would be collected each month on the utility bill or annually on the property tax bill.  Council members felt adding the fee to the property tax bill would be best, however it would require a local bill be introduced and passed in the NC General Assembly to allow a stormwater fee to be included in property tax bills.   

The stormwater fees would generate approximately $630,000 annually the Town could use for maintenance and repairs. 

Bad Timing?
Councilman Travis Scott said he understood the need for stormwater repairs, but stated that adding a fee in the midst of a pandemic would hurt businesses and residents.  Scott said the council needed to carefully plan where to spend the money but needed to be careful about increasing fees during the pandemic.

Mayor Andy Moore said he was in favor of the stormwater fee but agreed with Councilman Scott and said he was sympathetic to businesses and individuals. 

Councilman David Barbour likened the stormwater fee to the yard waste fee on monthly utility bills.  Barbour said people do not complain about the yard waste fee because people see a value in it.  He said a plan needs to be in place to show what work will be done and everyone needs to be given something to show the value of the stormwater fee.

Several towns in our area already charge a stormwater fee. The average residential fee in North Carolina is $4.50 per single family home.   Raleigh charges a $5 monthly fee, Dunn $2, Zebulon $2, Holly Springs $3, Knightdale $4, Wilson $4.50, Kinston $4.50, Goldsboro $4.50, and Rocky Mount $5.

The Town Council took no action on the SWAC recommendation pending further review.              

8 COMMENTS

  1. Currently, Smithfield is spending about $70,250 annually from the General Fund on stormwater programs and services. …. The stormwater fees would generate approximately $630,000 annually the Town could use for maintenance and repairs. So, they currently spend $70k, but new fees would raise $630K annually?

    • I’m still trying to figure that out too!! The numbers don’t make any sense! Somebody’s pockets are going to get lined if this takes effect. Our leaders are always trying to fleece the little people. But of course, they call it progress.

  2. Durham did this and got sued by churches. The churches said it was double taxation. It was tied up in court for uears before the citu fonally won.

  3. So it is my responsibility that it rains. What the HE@#…… This is a rip off and just more ways for the town to make more money to give people like Mike Scott another raise. The idea of this makes me sick and the people who are considering this makes me sick! How about doubling the price of gas or charge an extra $5,000.00 for a new car or better yet why don’t they just make us give them our pay checks every week when we get it and let us starve? You people need to rethink this one.

    • Most of these responses show people as ‘dumb as stumps’…
      Services cost money, folks.
      You want a town to provide services, but you think it’s free.
      Crazy….

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