FAQs

General Stormwater Questions

Q: What is stormwater runoff?

A: Stormwater runoff is water resulting from rainfall that does not get absorbed by the surfaces it touches and can be observed flowing over yards, streets, buildings, parking lots, and other surfaces when it rains. Stormwater runoff flows into the stormwater system which consists of storm drains (aka catch basins), pipes, and ditches. It is ultimately conveyed to our local streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes.

Q: How does the stormwater get into our streams and Lake Champlain?

A: When it rains, stormwater runoff flows into drainage ditches and storm sewers that drain into our streams. Ultimately, the streams carry this runoff to Lake Champlain.

Q: How is stormwater related to flooding issues?

A: As cities like South Burlington are developed over the years, much of the natural ground surface is replaced with impervious surfaces like pavement and rooftop. These surfaces don’t allow rainfall to soak into the ground, as do natural surfaces, and the volume of stormwater runoff flowing to the public stormwater system increases. In some cases, the existing stormwater system doesn’t have the capacity to adequately drain the stormwater runoff that is now draining to it. Thus, the system becomes inundated, and flooding results.

Stormwater Utility Questions

Q: What is a stormwater utility?

A: In the City of South Burlington, the Stormwater Utility is the method that is being used to provide dedicated funding for the City’s stormwater management program. The funding is provided via the stormwater user fee that all developed properties in the City pay.

Q: How much does the City’s stormwater program cost?

A: Depending upon the year, the City will spend between $1.3 and $2.1 million per year on the stormwater management program. These costs cover all personnel and stormwater division services including: stormwater system maintenance, capital improvement projects, permit compliance, erosion and sediment control, illicit discharge detection and elimination, engineering and design, stormwater system inventory and inspection, watershed assessments, and plan reviews. These funds are also used to leverage state and federal grants available for stormwater projects.

Q: How does the City pay for the stormwater management program?

A: The stormwater program is funded through the collection of stormwater fees. All developed properties in the City of South Burlington are charged a stormwater fee. The revenue generated via these fees is collected solely to fund the City’s stormwater management services.

Q: Which properties pay the stormwater fee?

A: All developed properties in the City of South Burlington pay the stormwater fee. Impervious surfaces such as buildings and pavement are primarily responsible for increased stormwater runoff. Therefore, all developed properties with impervious surfaces are charged the fee. This includes tax-exempt properties such as churches, schools, federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, etc. In fact, the City of South Burlington pays the fee for its buildings and roadways.

Q: How is the fee determined fairly?

A: A property’s stormwater fee is based on the demand that the property places on the stormwater system. Demand is measured using the amount of impervious surface (e.g., rooftop, driveway, roadways, etc…) located on that property. The more impervious surfaces a property has, the more stormwater runoff it generates, thereby placing an increased demand on the stormwater system. Properties classified as “single-family residential” are charged a flat fee. All other properties are charged based on how much impervious surface is located on the property.

Q: Is anyone exempt from paying a stormwater fee?

A: All developed properties, including tax-exempt properties, are charged the stormwater fee. Only undeveloped properties and railroad tracks are exempt from paying the fee.

Q: What is a credit against the stormwater fee?

A: A stormwater credit is an ongoing reduction in the stormwater fee for activities or practices that can reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff that is discharged into the public stormwater system. The rationale behind stormwater fee credits is to encourage property owners to reduce both their dependency on, and contribution to, the public stormwater system. Credits are available for up to 50% of the total stormwater fee for a property.

Q: Who is eligible for a credit?

A:The following types of credits will be granted to those non-single family residential properties (commercial properties) that qualify:

  • A Stormwater Treatment Practice Credit is available to properties that construct and maintain Stormwater Treatment Practices (STPs) as defined in the Vermont Stormwater Management Manual.
  • An Education Credit is available to public and private schools that educate and inform their students about the importance of stormwater and water quality.
  • An NPDES Permit Credit is available to properties that manage stormwaterrunoff due to requirements of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. This includes properties that have been have Multi-Sector General Permits (MSGP) and properties that are subject to the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) permit issued by the State of Vermont. The only MS4s in South Burlington, excluding the City, are the Burlington International Airport, the University of Vermont, and the Vermont Agency of Transportation. In addition, non-single family residential properties (‘non-MS4 supporting entities’) that, due to federal requirements, perform best management practices (BMPs) specifically intended to reduce impacts on non-point source stormwater runoff and/or provide an on-going public benefit related to stormwater management are also eligible to receive this credit. An example of a “non-MS4 supporting entity” within the City is the Champlain Water District (CWD).

A full copy of the City’s Stormwater Credit Manual and application materials are available here.

Residential Stormwater System Takeover by the City

Q: My residential property has a State of Vermont Stormwater Discharge Permit and is located in a stormwater impaired watershed (Potash, Bartlett, Centennial, Englesby or Munroe Brooks). Will the City take over responsibility for our stormwater system?

A: In October 2015 the City updated its stormwater ordinance so that it could provide State stormwater permit coverage to residential properties under the City’s existing Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. A flow chart describing the transfer / take-over process can be found here. The process may require upgrades to the existing stormwater treatment system, or payment of stormwater mitigation fees. However, the first step is to complete and submit an application for coverage (available here). Once the application is approved, the City will provide permit coverage and take responsibility for all maintenance and reporting requirements related to the stormwater system.

Q: What legal agreements must be in place before the City is able to provide ongoing permit coverage and take responsibility for maintenance and reporting requirements for a residential stormwater system?

A: In order for the City to take over these responsibilities it will need to obtain easements around the infrastructure. Ownership of the stormwater infrastructure inside the easement area must also be conveyed to the City via an Irrevocable Offer of Dedication (IOD) or other means. The owner of the residential system and the City will also need to enter into a stormwater agreement to ensure that the roles and responsibilities of both parties are clearly defined.

Q: My residential property has a State of Vermont Stormwater Discharge Permit and is not located in a stormwater impaired watershed. Will the City take over responsibility for our stormwater system similar to what it offers in the stormwater impaired watersheds?

A: Possibly. Our ability to provide MS4 permit coverage to residential properties is limited by the area covered by the City’s MS4 permit. At this time, the entire City is not covered by the MS4 permit. Contact the South Burlington Stormwater Services Division if you’d like assistance determining if your permit is within the City’s MS4 area.

Q: If I want the City to take over responsibility for my residential stormwater system, will it matter if my State of Vermont Stormwater Discharge Permit is currently expired?

A: The process for City acceptance of residential stormwater systems is the same whether or not the existing State permit is expired or valid. However, older permits are more likely to require upgrades before the City will take them over.

Q: What is the benefit of transferring my residential stormwater system to the City?

A: Determining what is right for your property is up to you. However, systems transferred to the City may realize the following benefits:

  • Reduced Annual Fees: Similar to all other developed property in South Burlington, your property will continue to pay stormwater utility fees to the City. However, your property will not incur additional annual fees once the stormwater system is transferred to the City. Properties that obtain permit coverage directly from the State of Vermont will have to pay an annual fee to the State in addition to the City’s existing stormwater fee.
  • Maintenance: Your property will no longer be responsible for maintaining the stormwater system. Maintenance will be completed by the South Burlington Stormwater Utility.
  • Inspection: Your property will no longer be responsible for inspecting the stormwater system. Many properties currently hire professional engineers to conduct the annual inspections that are required by State permits. Once transferred, inspections will be completed by the South Burlington Stormwater Utility.
  • Reporting: Your property will no longer be responsible for annual reporting. Many properties currently hire professional engineers to complete the annual reporting required by State permits. Once transferred, reporting will be completed by the South Burlington Stormwater Utility.
  • Timeline for upgrades: If your property requires stormwater treatment upgrades, obtaining coverage from the City may provide you with more time to complete these upgrades than obtaining permit coverage from the State of Vermont.

Q: Where can I find information on obtaining permit coverage directly from the State of Vermont?

A: You can contact the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Stormwater Section. Contact information and information on their permit programs is available on their website.

Commercial Stormwater System Takeover by the City

Q: My commercial property has a Vermont Stormwater Discharge Permit, and is located in a stormwater-impaired watershed (Potash, Bartlett, Centennial, Engelsby or Munroe Brooks). Will the City take over responsibility for my stormwater system?

A: The City will not take-over all responsibility for commercial stormwater systems, but the City can provide another option for permit coverage. In October 2015 the City updated its stormwater ordinance so that it could provide State stormwater permit coverage to commercial properties under the City’s existing Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. A flow chart describing the transfer / take-over process can be found here. The process may require upgrades to the existing stormwater treatment system, or payment of stormwater mitigation fees. However, the first step is to complete and submit an application for coverage (available here). Once the application is approved, the City will provide permit coverage and take responsibility for reporting to the State of Vermont. Commercial properties must continue to maintain their own stormwater systems. Commercial properties must also conduct annual inspections of their stormwater system and submit an inspection form to the City. These inspections do not require the assistance of an engineer.

Q: My commercial property has a State of Vermont Stormwater Discharge Permit and is not located in a stormwater impaired watershed. Will the City provide permit coverage similar to what it offers in the stormwater impaired watersheds?

A: Possibly. Our ability to provide MS4 permit coverage to commercial properties is limited by the area covered by the City’s MS4 permit. At this time, the entire City is not covered by the MS4 permit. Contact the South Burlington Stormwater Services Division if you’d like assistance determining if your permit is within the City’s MS4 area.

Q: If I want the City to provide permit coverage for my commercial stormwater system, will it matter if my State of Vermont Stormwater Discharge Permit is currently expired?

A: The process for obtaining permit coverage from the City is the same whether or not the existing State permit is expired or valid. However, older permits are more likely to require upgrades before the City will provide coverage.

Q: What is the benefit of obtaining stormwater permit coverage for my commercial property from the City as opposed to the State of Vermont?

A: Determining what is right for your property is up to you. However, stormwater systems that obtain permit coverage from the City may realize the following benefits:

  • Fees: Similar to all other developed property in South Burlington, your property will continue to pay stormwater utility fees to the City. However, there are no additional annual fees once the City begins providing permit coverage. Properties that obtain permit coverage directly from the State of Vermont will have to pay an annual fee to the State in addition to the City’s existing stormwater fee.
  • Timeline for upgrades: If your property requires stormwater treatment upgrades, obtaining coverage from the City may provide you with some additional time to complete these upgrades.

Q: Where can I find information on obtaining permit coverage directly from the State of Vermont?

A: You can contact the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Stormwater Section. Contact information and information on their permit programs is available on their website.