Summit County’s agricultural properties will now be treated the same as residential properties when it comes to how they’re charged for surface water.

Agricultural properties had been assessed the same as commercial and industrial entities under the Summit County Engineer’s Office’s Surface Water Management District: $4 a month per 3,000 square feet of impervious area — defined as solid structures such as rooftops, driveways and patios that can’t absorb water.

With the change, which County Council unanimously approved Monday, agricultural properties will now simply pay $4 a month, or $48 a year, regardless of how much impervious area is on their properties. 

"We're totally pleased with it. We think it's fair and reasonable, and we think it's the right thing to do," Summit County Farm Bureau President Tim Walsh said of the change, adding, "We feel like our soils are sponges."

According to the Summit County Farm Bureau, which advocated for the legislation, much of the agricultural land isn’t impervious and isn’t contributing to runoff but is actually absorbing the water. But property owners were still being charged three to four times as much as residential customers. The Farm Bureau also took issue with agricultural and commercial properties being treated the same under the Surface Water Management District, a voluntary program that only Bath has signed up for so far.

The Farm Bureau has said residential properties contain about 20 to 30 percent impervious surfaces, while industrial and commercial properties, like warehouses, strip malls, office parks and restaurants, contain about 70 to 80 percent impervious surface areas. Agricultural properties contain 1 to 2 percent impervious areas. Agricultural parcels with no impervious surfaces, only farmland, will be treated as undeveloped property and will not be charged a fee.

In other action Monday, Summit County Council is taking time on the creation of a countywide group to address stormwater issues in communities across the county.

At-large council member Clair Dickinson said he’ll instead be introducing legislation to create a group focusing on stormwater issues through legislation rather than through the charter at council’s first August meeting, after members return from their July recess.

Dickinson said he wouldn’t want to see the county charter becoming “a mess,” a concern District 3 council representative Gloria Rodgers echoed at a meeting earlier this month by saying the commission would be “cluttering up the charter” and could be set up outside of it.

“Certainly this proposed charter amendment would not do that, but it's a step in that direction by putting something in the charter that we can handle just as effectively by an ordinance,” Dickinson said.

The resolution is based on a recommendation from the nine-member Charter Review Commission. The resolution, if passed, would put the issue on the November ballot for voters to decide if they want to amend the county charter to create the Storm Water Management Commission.

The Summit County Executive’s Office and Summit County Engineer’s Office both want to see the group created with an ordinance rather than in the charter, but Jeff Snell, an attorney who served on the review commission, said that would be a mistake.

Thomas Heitic, who’s running for an at-large council seat in Barberton, told council members Monday that something needs to be done after the city was “deluged with this last storm.”

He said the group should include equal representation from across the county rather than appointed positions, including representation from Barberton, “where I’m getting hit the hardest.”

“I'm telling you from the south side of Barberton, we're getting tired of it, and it's time something gets done,” he said. “One city can't solve it.”

Council will be on recess all of July, with its next meeting Monday, Aug. 5.

Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.