Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Judge strikes down Montgomery County’s ‘rain tax’

A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge on Wednesday struck down the county’s stormwater fee, saying it is unmoored by the county’s cost of providing runoff protection as required by state law.
Absent a successful appeal, Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr.’s decision will likely compel the county to redraft its Water Quality Protection Charge to mirror its costs for providing the environmental service.
Rupp’s ruling is most directly a victory for developer Paul N. Chod, whom the county had socked with an $11,000 stormwater charge related to his 34-acre commercial Shady Grove Development Park in Gaithersburg. The judge found that Chod’s company, Minkoff Development Corp., provided its own stormwater protection and therefore owes nothing to the county under the WQPC, derisively referred to as a “rain tax” by its opponents.
Rupp’s ruling addressed the scope of Section 4-202.1 of the Maryland Environmental Article, which established the WQPC.
The section provides that counties that assess the stormwater remediation fee “shall” charge an amount “based on the share of stormwater management services related to the property and provided by the county or municipality.”
Rupp rejected Montgomery’s argument that the section’s language permits the county to charge a fee greater than its out-of-pocket costs...

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