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Baltimore’s stormwater fee: What religious organizations need to know

Rain gardens divert stormwater from drains while filtering and cleaning run-off
Rain gardens divert stormwater from drains while filtering and cleaning run-off

Is your congregation up-to-speed on Maryland's new stormwater legislation and how the law affects your congregation? Learn what your religious organization needs to know about Baltimore City's stormwater fees, stormwater green projects, the new Blue Water Congregations program and the Religious Structure Special Fee Reduction.

What is the stormwater fee?

In 2012, Maryland’s General Assembly passed stormwater legislation that approved a fee that will provide a dedicated and ongoing source of funding for reducing and treating stormwater pollution as mandated under the federal Clean Water Act and state laws. The fee was approved for private properties in Baltimore City and nine counties. The stormwater fee is based on the amount of impervious, or hard, surfaces on a property.

What is Baltimore City doing with the stormwater fee revenues?

The stormwater fees fund the staff and capital needed to implement Baltimore City projects that reduce and treat polluted run-off. Initiatives include; Citywide mechanical street sweeping, illicit discharge detection and elimination and preventive stormwater inlet cleaning.

How is my congregation's stormwater fee calculated?

Baltimore City charges non-single family properties $15 per quarter per Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). An ERU is equal to 1,050 square feet of impervious surface; the average size of a row house. Click here to find your congregation's stormwater fee and property data.

Available to ALL Baltimore City congregations, the Religious Structure Special Fee Reduction lowers the per ERU fee from $15 to $3 on non-taxable buildings used as places of worship or K-12 education.

How does my congregation apply for religious organization reductions and credits?

The Religious Structure Special Fee reduction is NOT automatic and all congregations must apply by filling out this application along with documentation (maps and tax-exempt proof). If approved, your fee reduction begins the date the application is received by the Department of Public Works; reductions and credits are not retroactive.

According to Jeffrey Raymond, Chief of Baltimore City’s Communications and Community Affairs Division, only one-third of Baltimore City’s congregations have applied for this special fee reduction. Because Baltimore City can’t determine which buildings on a congregation’s property are for worship or K-12 education, it is contingent upon congregations to provide this data by applying for the reduction.

Also, download and carefully read the Non-Single Family Property Maryland Stormwater Guidance Document to identify if your congregation's property may be eligible for other credits including treatment, participation, vacant lot or small development.

How can our congregation reduce stormwater pollution?

The overarching purpose of the Maryland’s stormwater legislation is to reduce, treat, or clean stormwater pollution before it enters waterways. If property owners take steps to reduce impervious surfaces, or capture and filter stormwater in rain barrels, green roofs, rain gardens and other approved projects, Baltimore City will reduce your property’s fee.

Stormwater projects can be confusing and the good news is that two local Baltimore non-profits have stepped in and created Blue Water Congregations to guide Baltimore City and County congregations to the path of stormwater success.

Blue Water Baltimore and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake developed the turn-key Blue Water Congregations with funding from The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The program is offered to congregations in the Gwynn Falls, Jones Falls, Herring Run and Baltimore Harbor watersheds. Click here for a map outlining these watersheds.

Baltimore Blue Congregations is your stormwater savior

The Blue Water Congregations initiative provides free technical, design, financial and landscape expertise and their consultants can walk your congregation through the stormwater process from A to Z. The first step in the process is a free water audit to determine your site’s potential for managing stormwater pollution in a more eco-friendly manner. Impervious surface removal, rain gardens, rain barrels and special landscaping can all positively reduce and treat urban runoff.

Reach Blue Water Congregations by contacting either Bonnie Sorak ( 443-799-0349) at Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake or Ashley Traut ( 410.254.1577) at Blue Water Baltimore.

Who is the Baltimore City contact for questions about fees, programs and reductions?

Visit the Department of Public Work’s CleanWaterBaltimore website, under the 'stormwater' tab or call 410.396.5398 to speak to a customer service representative.

Faith-based groups making a difference

The stormwater legislation's goal is for Maryland’s water quality to improve to healthy, responsible levels by 2025 as shown in the graphs above.

Baltimore’s faith-based community has the opportunity to live faithfully through action by reducing stormwater pollution and with Baltimore City’s Department of Public Works, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake and Blue Water Baltimore's support, Maryland’s waterways will hopefully improve.

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