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Council committee OKs ‘rain tax’ break for port firms

Alexander Pyles//Daily Record Business Writer//June 11, 2013

Council committee OKs ‘rain tax’ break for port firms

By Alexander Pyles

//Daily Record Business Writer

//June 11, 2013

A Baltimore City Council committee on Tuesday amended the city’s proposed stormwater remediation fee to give port and harbor area industries an 85 percent break.

The credit was added to the legislation by the Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee. The amendment — which the Department of Public Works last week said it would include in regulations — could save some port businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Margaret M. Witherup of Gordon Feinblatt LLC.

“I think we are satisfied with the outcome,” said Witherup, who represents the Maryland Industrial Technology Alliance and Amports Inc. She acknowledged the amendment — combined with others — would mean less money for the city, which would have to scale back plans for storm drain and water management upgrades.

The amended legislation still faces a vote by the full City Council.

The amendment allows about 150 port and industrial businesses surrounding the harbor that have already obtained industrial stormwater permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment to receive a 55 percent credit against their assessed stormwater fee.

Businesses and industries that maintain their own stormwater systems with pipes that discharge directly into the harbor rather than filtering through the city’s system would be eligible for a credit of up to 30 percent. The credits can be combined to equal up to 85 percent of the fee.

The committee also amended the legislation Tuesday to cap city businesses’ potential stormwater fee at 20 percent of their property tax rate. The Department of Public Works said last week such a cap did not fit in with its fee structure — based on a property’s amount of impermeable surface — but some City Council members feared that high fees could drive businesses out of the city.

Baltimore’s stormwater remediation fee, as proposed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration, was the highest for businesses among the 10 large jurisdictions forced to create such a fee structure.

The General Assembly passed legislation last year creating the mandate — derided as a “rain tax” by opponents — in response to federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements to improve Chesapeake Bay water quality.


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