Rain to Recreation: Making the Case for a Stormwater Capital Recovery Fee

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ABSTRACT
Lenexa’s Rain to Recreation Program has a three-fold mission (1) reduce flooding, (2) improve water quality, preserve the environment and open space and (3) provide for new recreational and educational opportunities in the undeveloped portion of the city. To support the Program’s watershed based “systems” approach to stormwater management a diversified funding package included an (1) annual stormwater utility charge per household, (2) a sales tax, (3) limited general revenue initially and (4) a capital “systems development” charge all to be leveraged with other available sources of local, state and federal funding. At the same time the watershed based approach found savings for both public and private parties realized through (1) economies of scale by regionalizing stormwater management facilities, (2) reducing traditional infrastructure and (3) being proactive rather than reactive.

The city’s created lakes, joint use facilities and protected stream setback represent the systems approach that the Program applies the Systems Development Charge supporting an aggressive stormwater capital plan. Black & Veatch Corporation estimated the capital investment for these facilities in 2004 at approximately $61,000,000 and thus prepared a one time capital recovery fee to be collected at the time of building permit. The city to fulfill its mission of improving water quality was at the same time considering adopting a new stormwater quality standards employing a best management practices (BMP) manual. To demonstrate the “win/win” of addressing stormwater quantity regionally and stormwater quality per development, the city and Black and Veatch and team compared the infrastructure savings of nontraditional stormwater “green” infrastructure coupled with savings of regionalization to the cost of the proposed Systems Development Charge.

INTRODUCTION
The City of Lenexa, Kansas is a rapidly developing suburban community in the Kansas City Metro Area. Home to nearly 45,000 residents, the City encompasses a thirty-four square mile area, approximately two-thirds of which is experiencing development pressure. To accommodate the rapid growth, the city initiated a citizen-driven, long-range community plan in 1996, Lenexa Vision 2020 http://www.ci.lenexa.ks.us, in which citizens showed strong interest in a stormwater management program. Lenexa then surveyed its citizens and found that nearly 80 percent had interest in a program that would (1) reduce flooding, (2) improve water quality, preserve the environment and open space and (3) provide for new recreational opportunities in the undeveloped portion of Lenexa. These elements are the foundation of the Rain to Recreation program’s (Program) mission and can be viewed at www.raintorecreation.org.

Stakeholder (i.e., neighboring communities, state and federal regulators, development community, citizenry etc.) involvement was critical to the formation of the Program and creating the Watershed Management Master Plan (Plan). This study articulated a proactive management and funding strategy to meet the goals of all parties involved. The plan recommended the development of a diversified funding strategy. Reflective of citizen interest, voters went to the polls in August 2000 approving an 1/8-cent sales tax to support the Program by a margin of 3 to 1. The 1/8-cent sales tax was again approved by the same margin in August 2004 to finally expire in 2010. The Program funding strategy includes an (1) annual stormwater utility charge per household, (2) a sales tax, (3) limited general revenue initially and (4) a capital charge all to be leveraged with other available sources of local, state and federal funding.

The Plan also evaluated the cost over a 15-year period for several alternatives and found that the new watershed approach is about 25% less expensive than the traditional stormwater infrastructure approach realized through (1) economies of scale by regionalizing stormwater management facilities, (2) reducing traditional infrastructure and (3) being proactive rather than reactive. Not only the citizenry but the development community has also bought into the watershed approach to stormwater management. As a result of stakeholder meetings that included the Lenexa Economic Development Council (LEDC) and the Homebuilders Association (HBA), the City Council approved in April 2004 the Systems Development Charge, a one time capital development fee, to support the funding of large capital improvement projects such as lakes in western Lenexa.

The Watershed Management Master Plan provided direction for the Program in the form of policies, practices and projects. In conjunction with the Systems Development Charge, a policy endeavor recently completed and also adopted by the City Council in April 2004 was to update the unified development code (UDC) to incorporate low impact development (LID) standards, a process that took several years to complete including a series of stakeholder meetings, interdepartment cooperation and Kansas City Metro wide collaboration.

The coupling of the Systems Development Charge with the update of the UDC is the focus of this paper demonstrating to the development community the economic efficiencies of a “systems” approach coupled with the potential development cost savings of LID.

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