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The Stormwater Fee Outrage

Letter to the Editor

October 19, 2016
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Stormwater Fee Outrage

To the Editor:

The Stormwater Fee is just a ridiculous idea. When I first realized it had been added to my water bill, I emailed our five Town Council members to inquire just what was it? One response said I'd been paying one all my life wherever I lived and I just didn't know it. That brought a smile. How condescending and insulting. We own property in three states and I've never paid a stormwater fee in my life. I sent confirmation of that on our California property to the Council last week. Our North Carolina property has a well and a septic tank. I know how to read a tax bill or a water bill. One member of Council didn't respond to my first email. One was supportive and indicated this was not supported by her. One Council member wanted to talk about it and explain how great an idea. The fifth Councilperson inspired me to pursue information. That person made me aware it was not a well written ordinance and thought it was a total mistake. Just last week I was chastised by one Councilperson. But, I've done my homework. This Fee if enacted will generate at least $25 million to $30 million over a 25 year period. That means it will outlive many island residents. The first month gave the Town over $94,000. In the first six months it generated more than $478,000. I had planned to speak before the Town Council last week, but three minutes is not enough time to share the facts. There were 3,444 households on our island in the 2010 U.S. Census. The 2014 census brought us up to 3,556. Google our population and its under 7,000.

Our McPhie Neighborhood Group of property owners filed petitions together to be exempted. Why? Because we have a perfect natural and man-made drainage system from Lanark (the street just north of the Catholic Church of the Ascension) down Lauder to Dundee and it works beautifully. The original system is about fifty years old and was paid for by our developer. In the early 2000s little Lanark Street off of Estero Blvd was flooding. It intersects with Indian Bayou and Lauder streets and those streets weren't flooding. A determination was made to stop the Lanark flooding by creating a drain at that intersecting point and let the flooding drain into our existing system on Dundee. The moneys allotted were $3,750 for the whole project. We'd never flooded because there are two natural outlets into the canal at the end of Dundee. The new project added ditches down Lauder to Dundee with a third outlet for the drainage into the canal directly behind our home at the corner of Lauder and Dundee. The first time our outlet to the canal clogged from natural debris after a storm, my husband called Public Works. They never responded and our Public Works employees for the Town of Fort Myers Beach have never returned to maintain it. The property owners have learned to keep the system flowing beautifully, when any problem has arisen. We think of this self-contained, fifty year old, effective system as our own. The response from the Town to our Neighborhood Group Petition for exemption was denied. They stated they own it, operate it and are responsible for it.

Recently, I drove from Town Hall to my home after a recent, major thunderstorm. I counted two flooded streets and one flooded beach access. Other than a puddle here and there--that was it. The most reasonable approach is to do projects like Lanark as we have done on this island in the past. I researched inflation rates for drainage projects and the U. S. government indicated an annual 3% inflation over a fifteen year period would mean this $3,750 project would cost $15,637, if we used our town Public Works employees. If they don't have any of the skills required there is a 15% labor increase to factor also. We've lived on this island for well over thirty years and have owned four properties both residential and commercial. Just a small portion of our personal property taxes alone would pay for a few flooded streets. This massive $25-30 Million Dollar Outrage is so wrong! Repair each street as needed. That's what we've done effectively in the past. And, some of these repairs are long, long overdue. Sterling is an example, because it has flooded for years and years. Everyone who drives up or down our island knows which streets need attention. A multi-million dollar twenty-five year fee is not just excessive, it's ridiculous, absurd, unnecessary, etc. Anyone who supports this needs a reality check.

Each property owner needs to have this additional information: We approached this fee from another perspective and I did my research again, first dealing with pervious and impervious. My post graduate degrees are not in engineering, but I learned that the infiltration rate of rain through sand is 100%. If you have bricks or pavers and they are not sealed and they sit on layers of sand they are pervious-100% drainage results. Owners of rock yards that are really old might want to research how long that underlying plastic layer lasts and when it becomes pervious. We requested Public Works to recalculate our rate of this absurd, ridiculous, unnecessary Stormwater Fee. They found that our paver driveway and walkways and backyard bricks were impervious and were directed to hire an engineer and a surveyor. Well, Lee County Tax Appraisers Office has the facts. Our lot is .26 acres=11,325.6 square feet. Our home is listed at 2,353 square feet. The town calculated our buildings to be 3,311 square feet (close enough) and our impervious total to be 5,517 square feet-wrong! Our large grass yard and totally pervious pavers and bricks sit on layers of sand and are therefore 8,014.6 square feet of pervious land. Pick up a brick or a paver and peak under it and you'll find sand. Barrier islands are made up of coastal sand according to more of my research. Public Works should recalculate their errors.

An outrage gets my attention and the Stormwater Fee is an outrage and must stop and must never be imposed on the property owners of Fort Myers Beach. Town Council we need just three votes.

Georgia Shakti-Hill



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