Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is this charge for Stormwater?
A. It is a utility fee assessed to all parcels of land in town in order to generate funds required to manage the stormwater system in a manner that will comply with the federally mandated requirements of our recently issued Stormwater permit.
Q. Do other communities have to pay this?
A. Yes, in one form or another. Most other communities have been complying for years, but due to the expiration of the waiver received by Pepperell, we are just now, in 2018 required to comply. Other communities fund these cost in a variety of ways including a separate fee, through the General Fund (taxes), or a combination of the two.
Q. What is the purpose of these requirements?
A. To reduce the pollutants to the maximum extent practical to protect water quality in the streams and rivers that we use for recreation and as a source of drinking water for other communities.
Q. Isn’t this a tax?
A. No, this is a utility fee for services provided not unlike the Water and Sewer utilities. Certain parcels also have the opportunity to opt out of the fee by fulfilling the opt out criteria.
Q. What is the opt out criteria?
A. The following conditions must be met in order to opt out:
1) The parcel is a government owned undeveloped land in a natural state or,
2) The parcel is a 501(c)(3) designated property for the sole purpose of protecting open space for conservation which contributes to stormwater mitigation or,
3) Parcels less than one thousand (1,000) square feet in area that are undeveloped.
Q. Why wasn’t this voted on at Town Meeting?
A. Two Articles were voted on, and passed, at the October 1, 2018 special town meeting. The first, Article 4, established a Stormwater Enterprise fund, and the second, Article 5, was to fund a budget to defray the expenses of the Enterprise Fund for the remainder of FY2019.
Q. Do I have to pay this fee?
A. Yes, failure to pay the Stormwater fee may result in a lien on your parcel.
Q. Can I get an abatement?
A. No, abatements are not expected to be granted for this fee. However, you may opt out of paying the fee by fulfilling the opt out criteria.
Q. Why we didn’t use the tax approach?
A. Not all parcels in town are taxed. Some parcels/properties, such as schools and churches, are tax exempt yet generate relatively high volumes of traffic which can significantly affect stormwater. Additionally, a tax based method has limitations such as Prop 2 ½ and would put mandatory stormwater tasks in competition with other General Fund needs (police, fire, schools) which could jeopardize permit compliance.
Q. Don’t we already pay taxes for the Highway division to do this, isn’t that double dipping?
A. The vast majority of the permit compliance will involve continuous analysis, evaluation and reporting on the operation and efficiency of the stormwater system. The Highway division does currently perform rudimentary system maintenance including sweeping streets, cleaning catch basins and rebuilding drainage infrastructure, but some or all of this could migrate to the Stormwater Enterprise Fund at some point in the future. If this were to happen the Highway budget could be adjusted accordingly.