A bill approved Thursday by the Illinois Senate gives DuPage and Peoria counties authority to enact stormwater utilities fees.
A possible fee would fund stormwater infrastructure improvements to mitigate flooding that has hit the area during big storms in recent years, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said. Currently, these improvements are paid for by property taxes.
Cronin said the fee would be more equitable than the property tax, because it would be based on how much water a property displaces.
"If you're a big developer and you put down a large, 50,000-square-feet parking lot of concrete, and you displace a lot of water to your neighbor downstream, you'll pay more," he said. "If you take steps to install semi-permeable pavers and rain barrels at home, your fee will be a lot less, you'll get credit for it. It's the ultimate in responsible behavior policy."
State Rep. Ron Sandack co-sponsored the bill in the House, and said he believes the bill was a good use of "local control" because it gives the county the ability to decide whether or not it wants the utility fee. He said he does not have an opinion on whether or not the county should have the fee.
"This bill (allows) them to do that in a logical, rational way, and then be held responsible by their constituents and voters at the county level," he said.
The bill comes on the heels of last month's third significant flood event in five years – impacting more than 8,700 homes and businesses, costing millions of dollars in uninsured losses.
For Downers Grove residents, a new county-wide utility also follows a village stormwater fee introduced this year, which makes some uneasy.
"I'm not a proponent of it," County Board District 3 Commissioner and Downers Grove resident Brian Krajewski said. "I just think it's another tax. I wasn't happy with the one Downers Grove put in."
Should DuPage County act to establish a stormwater utility fee program, the legislation mandates the county notify affected property owners of the fee two years prior to sending out the first bill. During this period, the county would be required to hold public hearings, educate property owners about the fee, and develop a credit system for those property owners that implement green practices.
County Board District 2 Commissioner Elizabeth Chaplin, an unincorporated Downers Grove resident, said she supported the bill because it gives the county the ability to decide for itself whether it wants the fee. She said she will wait to hear more details about a fee before she decides whether she is for or against it.
"We're going to have to see what the county board decides to do with it, and what comes out of these years of educating the resident and ourselves on how exactly the stormwater utility would work."