What We Do
In 1992, the Town appointed a Stormwater Management Committee to study stormwater management issues in Chapel Hill. In 2004, the Town’s discussions and recommendations led to the creation of a Stormwater Management Utility, funded by property owner fees based on the amount of impervious surface on the property. The utility provides funding to meet Town’s requirements under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) – Phase II regulations of the Clean Water Act.
- Respond to stormwater-related community-member inquiries and requests-for-assistance.
- Investigate inquiries associated with stormwater management, floodplain management, drainage, pollution.
- Develop and implement activities to comply with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) municipal stormwater permit including the six minimum measures and annual reporting requirement.
- Perform field classification of streams; identify and map breakpoints between perennial and intermittent stream regimes; update and maintain Resource Conservation District (RCD) mapping and related database/filing system; and assist the Town Zoning Compliance Officer with investigation of RCD inquiries/violations.
- Perform development reviews involving stormwater management, floodplain management, and RCD criteria and requirements. Review and make recommendations regarding RCD and Stormwater Impact Statement exemption requests.
- Provide technical assistance concerning stormwater management practices, sediment and erosion control, and floodplain issues.
- Interpret the FEMA floodplain maps for community-members; compile mapping comments for submission to FEMA and the NC Division of Emergency Management;coordinate and maintain records of active and completed floodplain map revisions/amendments; and assist the Town Zoning Compliance Officer with investigation of floodplain inquiries/violations.
- Conduct instream water quality sampling, confirm sampling sites and sampling procedures, and prepare quarterly reports.
- Manage and update stormwater billing file; manage databases to track payment and fee review data; process applications for Stormwater Fee Assistance; respond to customer requests-for assistance regarding impervious surface data, billing, procedures, etc.
- Manage the development and implementation of the Town’s Stormwater Management Program Master Plan.
- Develop and administer the Stormwater Management Division's capital improvements projects (CIP).
- Maintain and repair stormwater system infrastructure.
- Conduct field inventory and data collection of all storm drainage infrastructure.
- Provide technical and staff support to the Stormwater Management Utility Advisory Board.
- Identify grant opportunities to fund drainage and water quality improvement projects and stream bank stabilization projects; prepare and submit grant applications; develop and monitor approved grant-funded projects.
- Prepare contract documents and administer stormwater-related professional services and construction contracts.
- Inspect public and private stormwater facilities.
- Conduct stream restoration projects (e.g., Eastwood Lake/Booker Creek project; Bolin Creek Watershed Restorations).
- Sweep streets routinely to remove pollutants and debris.
The Stormwater Management Program Master Plan is the strategic and operational guidance document for the Town of Chapel Hill’s Stormwater Management Program. Developed through a collaborative, stakeholder-inclusive process, the Master Plan builds upon the program mission and stakeholder-defined goals to articulate strategic objectives.
Master Plan Phase 1
Master Plan Phase 2
Master Plan Phase 2 Appendix A Tables for Program Goals: Strategic Objectives, Initiatives and Measures
Master Plan Phase 2 Appendix B Stormwater Utility Fee Credit Survey
Master Plan Phase 2 Appendix C Pilot Basin Study Report - Ephesus Subwatershed
Master Plan Phase 2 Appendix D Pilot Basin Study Report - Booker Headwaters Subwatershed
General Billing Information
Annual stormwater utility fees are included on county tax bills for Chapel Hill properties in Orange County. A separate bill is mailed for Chapel Hill properties in Durham County each September. The bills cover the period from January 1 through December 31 of each year. The property owner of record on January 1 of each billing year is responsible for payment or for pro-rating and paying the fee at closing. Bills must be paid by January 5 after they are received.
- Stormwater Management Fee Schedule
- Stormwater Management Fee Review Form
- Stormwater Management Fee Appeals Form
How Your Bill Is Calculated
All impervious surfaces are identified (this includes rooftops, permanent structures, paved surfaces, sidewalks, and gravel driveways) and the amount of impervious surface in each parcel is calculated. Impervious surfaces do not allow precipitation and runoff to infiltrate the soil, leading to increased water pollution and flooding.
A fee of $34.97 per year is charged for every 1,000 square feet or portion thereof (Equivalent Rate Unit – ERU) of impervious surface for single family and most commercial properties. The fee on a property having 1,700 square feet of impervious surface area is $69.94(2 ERUs x $34.97/ERU); a property having 3,800 square feet of impervious surface area is charged a fee of $139.88 (4 ERUs x $34.97/ERU).
In most cases, the fee for each multi-family unit, such as a condominium or townhouse, is determined by adding all impervious surfaces in the development and dividing by the number of residential units. See Issues of Condominiums, Townhouses, and Similar Attached Developments below.
To find out what impervious surfaces we include on your particular lot for fee calculation, you may send in a Stormwater Management Fee Information Request Form. We will create a map for you showing what was included as impervious surface on your lot. During this process, we will review and verify the calculation of your bill. The map will be sent by surface mail, along with a letter explaining the calculation method and advising you of any changes in impervious square footage. If our review discovers an error in the calculation of your bill, a new invoice will be issued with the map.
You may appeal if you feel the calculation of impervious surface on your lot is incorrect. Appeals can be based on the existence, location, size, or composition of an impervious surface. Gravel driveways and parking areas are not able to be appealed unless specifically engineered to be pervious or porous. The Appeals Form describes the submittal requirements for appeals, and has more detail on the issue of gravel driveways.
Condominiums, Townhouses, and Similar Attached Developments
Unless requested otherwise, fees are calculated by summing the impervious surface area across an entire multi-family development, calculating the total fee, and dividing the total fee by the number of units in that parcel (fee option #1 below).
The Town has alternate fee calculation methods for multi-family residential and similar commercial attached developments (such as townhouses and condominiums) to address concerns with homeowners’ associations and differently sized units. TheStormwater Management Fee Redistribution Request Form allows owners of units or their owners’ associations to change the way the total fee for their development is distributed among them. To change fee calculations, the form must be submitted by February 28th of the billing year. The options for fee distribution are:
- Billing shared equally by unit owners. The fee for the entire development is calculated from the sum of all impervious surface areas on both private and common property. The fee for each unit is the total fee divided by the number of units. Owners receive individual bills for each unit; an association that may own common property in the development would not be billed. This is the Town’s default method of fee distribution, and is used for all multi-unit attached developments unless another option is requested.
- Consolidated billing to an association or designated agent. The fee for the entire development is calculated from the sum of all impervious surface areas on both private and common property, and the association or designated agent receives a single consolidated bill. Generally, an association distributes this cost to property owners in the development.
- Shared billing between unit owners and an association. The association receives the bill for impervious surfaces on common areas, and unit owners are billed separately for impervious surface areas on private property. The total area of privately owned impervious surface is divided by the number of units to get the fee for each unit. Owners receive an individual bill for each unit. If this option is selected, common areas must be clearly delineated on a map accompanying the request to change the fee distribution.
- Proportional billing of unit owners. The fee for the entire development is calculated from the sum of all impervious surface areas on both private and common property. To determine the fee for each unit, the total fee is divided proportionally according to each unit’s share of square footage inside a building (interior floor area) as compared to the total interior floor area within the development as a whole. If this option is selected, interior floor area square footage for each owner’s property, plus the total interior floor area for the development, must accompany the request to change the fee distribution.
NPDES is a federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program. Its goal is to reduce pollution in our waterways through the use of permits for facilities and municipalities/tribes/states that discharge effluent and/or stormwater into waterways.
EPA requires six minimum measures called Best Management Practices (BMPs) for NPDES Phase II permitting. Each of these management practices must have measurable goals defined to evaluate their effectiveness in the removal of pollutants from stormwater runoff:
- Public education and outreach
- Public involvement and participation
- Illicit discharge detection and elimination (IDDE Ordinance)
- Construction site stormwater runoff control: Orange County Erosion and Sedimentation Control performs
permitting, inspection, and enforcement in Chapel Hill.
- Ensuring post-construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment
- Pollution prevention/good housekeeping for municipal operations
Although previously applied only to industrial and commercial dischargers and sewage-treatment operations, permits through the program are now also required for municipal stormwater, or non-point source, discharges. Water Permitting 101 explains the history of water quality legislation, NPDES and the use of permits.
NPDES - Phase I permitting was required in 1989 for North Carolina for: 1) large state facilities and municipalities with stormsewer systems; 2) eleven categories of industrial activity; and 3) construction activity that disturbs more than 5 acres of land. NPDES - Phase II permits, which went into effect in 2005, apply to medium and small municipalities with stormsewer systems, such as Chapel Hill's, and construction activities that disturb from 1 to 5 acres of land.
In North Carolina, the Department of Environmental Quality- Division of Energy, Mining and Land Resources (DEMLR) oversees NPDES permitting through its Stormwater Permitting Program.
How We Got Here
Ordinance Established Stormwater Management Utility in 2004
Twelve years following the initial discussions and studies of how the Town could best meet its stormwater management needs, the Council, on June 14, 2004, adopted an ordinance establishing a Stormwater Management Utility. See the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 23.
The Mission and Roles of the Stormwater Management Program describes the overall mission of stormwater management in Chapel Hill, as well as the stakeholders and their roles in the implementation of a Stormwater Utility.
The Program Priorities summarizes priorities developed by the Town's Stormwater Utility Development and Implementation Study Committee in 2001 and earlier, with finalized recommendations from the Policy Review Committee of 2003.
Resolution Adopting Stormwater Management Utility Ordinance - June 14, 2004
On June 14, 2004, the Town Council enacted an ordinance to establish a Stormwater Management Utility, set an equivalent rate unit fee for impervious surface area, and provided for the appointment of a Stormwater Management Utility Advisory Board. At this meeting, an interlocal agreement was approved for Orange County to issue bills for the stormwater fee with their annual property tax bills. Details of the agreement can be found in the attachment.
Continuing Discussion of Stormwater Utility - May 12, 2004
This report documents the continuing discussion of the Stormwater Utility, with adjusted budget estimates and other details.
- Attachment 1: April 26, 2004 Council Meeting Agenda (below)
- Attachment 2: Excerpt Sections of Draft Stormwater Utility Ordinance
- Attachment 3: Summary of Issues Raised at April 24, 2004 Town Council Meeting
Stormwater Management Program Funding Analysis: Cost of Service and Rate Analysis - May 2004
This report prepared by AMEC Earth and Environmental describes the different levels of service a stormwater utility could provide for the Town, estimated costs for these services, and provides an analysis of utility fee rates based on different levels of service.
Recommended Program and Budget for Proposed Stormwater Management Utility - April 26, 2004
This report was presented to Town council on April 26, 2004. It provides a summary of the manager's utility-based stormwater management program, a first year operating budget, a draft ordinance, summary and responses to comments from the March 24, 2004 Town Council meeting, and further Advisory Board recommendations. The summary of the manager's recommended program is a more refined version of the last one presented. Property-specific information including amounts of impervious surface and calculated Equivalent Rate Units (ERUs) based on these recommendations can be accessed through this report or searched directly.
- Attachment 1: Portion of Draft Ordinance
- Attachment 2: Draft 2004-2005 Utility Budget
- Attachment 3: Planning Board Recommendations
- Attachment 4: Reimbursable Costs for Utility Development
- Attachment 5: Billable Costs to the Enterprise Fund
- Attachment 6: Equivalent Rate Unit (ERU) Tabulation
- Attachment 7: Estimated Year One Office Lease Costs
- Attachment 8: Summary of Questions and Comments from March 24, 2004 Meeting
- Attachment 9: Citizen's Email Correspondence
Information on Proposed Stormwater Management Utility - March 24, 2004
This report was presented to Council to provide further information on the proposed stormwater utility, as well as the Manager's recommendations. It includes background and discussion and the Manager's recommendations for an alternative program with key elements, master plan description, proposed year one activities, stormwater management services, costs, and funding including a rate analysis and billing and collections recommendations. Past reports to the council and background information on the utility referenced are listed in other sections of this webpage.
- Memorandum: Information on Proposed Stormwater Management Utility
- Attachment 1: Draft Ordinance establishing the stormwater management utility and Advisory Board
- Attachment 2: Planning Board Comments and Recommendations
- Attachment 3: Consultant's Planned Program Report
- Attachment 4: Reimbursable costs for the utility development
- Attachment 5: Billable costs to the enterprise fund
- Attachment 6: Equivalent Rate Unit (ERU) Tabulation
- Attachment 7: Estimated year one office lease space costs
- Attachment 8: Summary of Questions and staff comments from the February 16 Public Forum
- Attachment 9: Citizens' email correspondence
Public Forum on the Potential Establishment of a Town Stormwater Utility - February 16, 2004
This is the report presented by the Stormwater Utility Policy Review Committee and Town staff at the February 16 Public Forum:
- Memorandum: Public Forum on the Potential Establishment of a Town Stormwater Utility.
- Attachment 1: Consultants Comprehensive Report on Implementation of a Utility-based Stormwater Management Program (3-ring binder).
- Attachment 2: Stormwater Utility Policy Review Committee Summary of Recommendations (p. 2-1).
- Attachment 3: Draft Stormwater Utility Ordinance (p. 3-1).
- Attachment 4: Progress Report on Potential Development of a Town Stormwater Utility (presented at 2/28/04 Council work session) (p.4-1).
- Revised Recommendations for Development of a Stormwater Utility to Serve the Town of Chapel Hill, NC
- Town of Chapel Hill Stormwater Utility Implementation
- Stormwater Utility Public Education and Involvement
- Letter from University regarding the proposed Stormwater Utility
- Attachment 5: Excerpt from Town Comprehensive Plan, Section 9F (p. 5-1).
- Attachment 6: Year One Budget Estimate for Proposed Utility-based Program (p. 6-1).
- Attachment 7: Estimate of New Stormwater Management Resources and Costs in 2004-05 if Utility is Not Implemented (p. 7-1).
- Attachment 8: Council Member Harrison's Comments Concerning the University (p. 8-1).
Stormwater Utility Status Report - November 24, 2003
The Stormwater Utility Policy Review Committee presented a status report of the committee's work, including the final version of the mission statement, stakeholder roles, and program priorities. They also presented a Utility Program Elements Report.
Minutes of the Policy Review Committee Meetings
- Meeting #5, September 9, 2003
- Meeting #4, August 12, 2003
- Meeting #3, July 8, 2003
- Meeting #2, June 10, 2003
- Meeting #1, April 23, 2003
Stormwater Utility Pro Forma Business Plan-2002 (2MB)
In 2002, AMEC Earth and Environmental presented to the Council a draft pro forma business plan that outlines the key elements of a proposed stormwater utility and a recommended process for utility development and implementation. This document covers issues such as what a stormwater utility does, organizational structure, and how revenue is generated and collected.
Engineering Department Staff Report - September 18, 2002
Engineering Staff presented Options for Town Stormwater Management Standards which outlined three alternative sets of standards for the proposed stormwater program, as well as implications and impacts of each standard.
Stormwater Utility - February 11, 2002 Report
This is the Town Manager's response to the final recommendations of the Stormwater Utility Development and Implementation Study Committee which led to the creation of an Inter-jurisdictional Stormwater Work Group which in turn existed prior the currently-active Stormwater Utility Policy Review Committee.
- Memorandum: Manager's Follow-up Report on Recommendations of the Stormwater Utility Development and Implementation Study Committee
- Attachment 1: Final Report of the Stormwater Utility Development and Implementation Study Committee
- Attachment 2: Appendix A: Southern Orange County Stormwater Management Program Analysis
- Attachment 3: Summary: Needs and Opportunities for Comprehensive Stormwater Management in southern Orange County
Final Report of the Stormwater Utility Development and Implementation Study Committee - November 26, 2001
These are the final recommendations of the Stormwater Utility Development and Implementation Study Committee as presented to the Town Council.
Town of Chapel Hill Stormwater Management Alternatives-2001
This report was created in 2001 by graduate students in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Department of City and Regional Planning as part of a workshop course. It contains three sub-reports analyzing Town activities relevant to stormwater management:
- Executive Summary
- Stormwater Capital Improvements Management Report (4MB)
- Impervious Surfaces / Best Management Practices Report (4MB)
- Stream Buffer / Resource Conservation District Report (3.7MB)
Stormwater Utility Technical Review Committee - 1999 Report
In 1999 a report was presented to the Town Council concerning the feasibility of establishing a stormwater utility in Chapel Hill. It explored the general issues of stormwater utilities and laid out a plan for further evaluation of stormwater management issues.
Stormwater Management Committee Final Report - 1994
In 1994 the Town Council received the final report from the Stormwater Management Committee. The committee's task was to determine what stormwater services the Town should be providing to citizens of Chapel Hill. This report explored stormwater issues in Chapel Hill and recommended actions for the Town to take to manage stormwater and mitigate detrimental impacts on water quality and quantity.