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State bill allowing DuPage County stormwater fee awaits governor's signature

Illinois Gov Pat Quinn plans to sign a bill that allows DuPage County to create its own stormwater utility fee.

The bill passed both state legislative houses May 16, and was sent to the governor June 14, according to spokesperson Dave Blanchette.

He said the governor supports the bill and plans to sign it before the Aug. 16 deadline.

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the county stormwater fee would be more equitable than the current method of using property taxes to fund stormwater infrastructure, because a fee would be based on the amount of stormwater displaced by a property.

"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," Cronin said when the House passed the bill. "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."

The bill requires a two-year planning period including feasibility studies, public hearings and public outreach and education before the implementation of any fee. During the process, the county board would also have to vote whether to create the fee.

If approved, the fee would present a new cost for property-owning nonprofits in DuPage County. Nonprofits are exempt from property taxes but not fees, DuPage County Board Stormwater Committee Chair James Zay said.

It's a situation that has frustrated churches and nonprofit organizations in Downers Grove, where village officials approved a municipal stormwater fee earlier this year.

Church and nonprofit leaders there say the fee has cut into their ability to provide services and assistance in the community, and have organized petitions and made public comments at village council meetings this spring and summer. That focus might soon shift to the county.

Zay said churches and other non-profits would not be exempt from any possible stormwater utility from the county, but that officials would discuss opportunities for credits for using permeable pavers, rain barrels, retention ponds and other measures that reduce stormwater run-off.

While the village of Downers Grove cut property taxes nearly $2 million this year to account for the separate fee, the county has not said whether it would cut property taxes in a similar fashion.

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