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Middletown may charge residents, businesses a stormwater fee

Supervisors voted this week to convene an advisory board to study the topic


Middletown Township residents could be paying a new fee next year to address what some municipal officials say is homeowners’ biggest complaint.

The board of supervisors Monday unanimously approved the establishment of an advisory board to study a stormwater fee to fund improvements to a system township officials say is antiquated.

Township Manager Stephanie Teoli Kuhls said an ideal timeline would see board appointments in June in order to get recommendations for the next budget. The board will include residents and members of the local business community, she said.

“It’s the number-one issue when it comes to residents’ complaints,” she said. “Our township was developed before modern stormwater systems.”

Supervisor Chairman Mike Ksiazek also said there have been many drainage complaints from residents.

“We struggle to meet the challenge,” he added.

Township Solicitor Jim Esposito explained that many communities have established such a fee, based on the impervious surface of properties. He said the annual fees average $100 to $120 per resident.

Warminster is believed to be the only municipality in Bucks County with such a fee, according to Evan Stone, executive director of the county planning commission. The average resident there pays about $120 a year, according to Dalton George, of the Warminster Municipal Authority.

Teoli Kuhls said Middletown spends between $500,000 and $1 million a year to address stormwater drainage problems, “and that’s not being proactive.” The state has estimated the township should be spending $8 million over the next five years, she added.

“The demand is skyrocketing,” she said.

With about 17,000 homes in Middletown, the township could raise $1.7 million a year just from homeowners if it were to institute an average fee of $100.

Esposito said businesses and residents with established stormwater mitigation on their properties could receive credits reducing their fees.

He also explained that West Chester University challenged a similar fee in its host community. In that case, a court ruled that the fee is actually a tax, from which universities, schools and churches are exempt. That ruling, he said, has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Township officials said the Langhorne Gables section is a perfect example of the need for stormwater management and they just got great news in the form of a $744,000 state grant for that purpose.

However, the work being eyed, mostly along Longview Avenue between Buttonwood and Jefferson avenues, is expected to cost $1.5 million. And the grant requires a matching amount.

Teoli Kuhls said the township has two years to come up with that match.

If that money can be budgeted, perhaps with help from more grants, the work could begin as early as the latter part of the upcoming winter and be complete about four months later, according to township Engineer Isaac Kessler.

At Monday’s meeting, the supervisors approved an application for a state grant of up to $500,000 to supplement the Langhorne Gables project.

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