Hudson -- Although Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District customers began paying a stormwater fee in January, they may not have to pay any more and could receive a refund.
A case in common pleas courts in Summit and Cuyahoga counties implemented the fee in 2012 but the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 26 the fee is unlawful.
The next stop may be the Supreme Court of Ohio. The NEORSD plans to appeal the case to the high court, said representative Jennifer Elting. If the high court decides to hear the case, it could determine whether the stormwater fee will continue to be paid or a refund or credit is due to those who have already paid it.
The average NEORSD homeowner paid $15.15 per quarter for the stormwater fee, according to Elting.
She said NEORSD is working with its billing agents to remove the stormwater line item from customer bills. In the meantine, postcards will be mailed to customers in the next week to inform them not to pay the stormwater fee.
NEORSD has until Nov. 11 to file the paperwork to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, Etling said.
She said the Ohio Supreme Court could make a decision to hear the case in early 2014 but a final ruling wouldn't be expected until the fall of 2014.
Fees collected since January total $12 million and have been put in an escrow account until the Supreme Court of Ohio decides if it will take that case and makes its final ruling, Etling said.
If NEORSD loses its appeal, it would refund or credit any stormwater fees paid by its customers. If NEORSD wins its case, it would again begin billing for the stormwater fee but would not collect any fees in the interim period, Elting said.
Only a couple of projects in Cuyahoga County have been completed since the fee was implemented and other projects are on hold, including the Indian Creek stream bank erosion project in Macedonia, she said.
Background of case
Hudson City Council on Aug. 15, 2012, unanimously approved a settlement agreement with NEORSD agreeing to the stormwater fee for Hudson's 2,178 residential and 214 non-residential NEORSD customers.
In return, Hudson would received 25 percent of what its residents paid for stormwater projects in Hudson from NEORSD.
Hudson and the other Summit County communities which settled -- Macedonia, Northfield Village, the Richfield Village and Sagamore Hills Township -- are out of the appeals case, but the settlement would be void if the Supreme Court of Ohio upholds the decision by the appeals court, according to Hudson city solicitor Todd Hunt.
"There would be no [stormwater] program and no fee," Hunt said. "The settlement would be void."
That settlement was a result of a 2012 Common Pleas Court case in Summit and Cuyahoga counties in which Hudson and other communities opposed the fee, which was proposed to raise more than $30 million per year to pay for regional stormwater management projects. The court ruled the district had a right to implement a new fee to fund the $220 million Regional Stormwater Management Program.
The ruling was appealed.
The Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth Appellate District County of Cuyahoga, on Sept. 26 found the NEORSD storm water program was unauthorized by the state statute and can't charge a stormwater fee, according to Hunt.
In addition, the Sewer District had no authority for undertaking a comprehensive stormwater management program, the appeals court ruled.
Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing