NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Hurricane Florence and subsequent storms have proven to be an eye-opener for many residents across the county. With record-level rainfall and flooding that wiped out entire homes, residents were left wondering what exactly went so wrong.
A combination of record-setting rainfall before Florence, streams and tributaries becoming backed-up with debris and sediment, and the clogging of drainage ditches led to major flooding events.
Residents, rightfully distraught with the situation, turned to the county for guidance and answers — but what they were told was not exactly what they were hoping to hear. The county, unlike the City of Wilmington, previously had no stormwater management utility. This means that drainage ditches that were installed as required by county code were the responsibility of the property owners, not the local government.
Now, that has changed.
“On December 16, 2019, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a Stormwater Services program to begin in July 2020. This program will help ensure the continued upkeep of the stormwater management system throughout the unincorporated areas of the county, and relieve property owners of the responsibility of maintaining and cleaning ditches and pipes on their property,” according to the county.
But, as the saying goes, nothing in life is free. A service fee will be assessed on an annual basis to county residents.
“The new service fee will only apply to property owners in the unincorporated area of the county, and would not include the City of Wilmington or the county’s beach town,” according to the county.
The fee of $67.80 a year will be assessed only to property owners in the unincorporated county and will be collected once a year along with property taxes (although the county claims this is not another tax).
“A nominal fee will support these services and only apply to property owners in the unincorporated areas of the county. Residential property owners will be charged a set fee of $5.65 a month (or $67.80 a year); and commercial properties, nonprofits, churches and any other non-residential properties will be charged a fee based on their impervious surface area, according to the county.
“The Stormwater Services fee is not a tax, but it will be collected once a year through the county’s property tax bill (sent in August) and will be listed as a separate fee for property owners in the unincorporated area.”
There are some discounts for newer homes.
“Properties developed since September of 2000 that maintain stormwater control measures under a county permit will receive a 31 percent discount since less maintenance from Stormwater Services will be required,” the county claims.
So when can residents expect to see new changes implemented? The county is hoping to move forward with the project heading into the new year.
The timeline, according to the county is as follows:
- December 16, 2019: Board of Commissioners approved the resolution to finalize plans for a Stormwater Service to begin July 2020
- Early 2020: Public meetings to discuss specifics of program and fee structure of Stormwater Services
- July 2020: Stormwater Services will be part of the recommended budget and go into effect with the FY 20-21 budget on July 1
- August 2020: Stormwater Services fee will be collected through the county tax bill, mailed in August