By Leah Sander
WINONA LAKE — The Winona Lake Town Council is considering establishing a monthly stormwater fee.
At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Winona Lake Town Hall, council members had their first initial consideration of the ordinance. It would mandate that property owners would have to pay a $5 monthly stormwater user fee starting on Jan. 1, rising to $7 per month in 2022 and $9 per month in 2023.
According to the ordinance, the rates would be flat for single-family homes, mobile homes, apartments with no more than three units and home-based businesses in residential areas.
Those owning non-residential property or multi-unit property with more than three units will have to pay a rate based on the amount of surface area that doesn’t absorb stormwater divided by 3,800 square feet.
After the council introduced the ordinance, Jerry Nelson came before them with concerns.
“I have several small rentals, a 1,000 square feet, and you’re going to charge me whatever you establish,” he said. “And I hate to pick on (Council Member) Jim Lancaster, but he’s got 6,500 square feet of house up there with roof it covers, land that’s six times a couple of my rentals and I’m going to pay the same $5 every month that Jim’s going to pay for his property because it’s a single-family residence.”
Nelson suggested that the ERU for one unit should be “based on a 1,000-square foot house, and then multiplied up as the houses get bigger.”
Mary Atkins with Wessler Engineering, of Indianapolis, who helped draft the stormwater ordinance, explained that the individual ERU was based on an average and that method of calculation is a standard way of determining stormwater rates.
Town Attorney Adam Turner said the public would have plenty of time to comment at the public hearing for the ordinance at 6 p.m. Dec. 1. He also said Atkins and other experts involved would be able to explain more then.
The hearing is to be both in person and virtually via Zoom.
Town Council President Rick Swaim said property owners could also contact council members for comment.
The council also tabled discussion on whether to vacate an alley behind 301 Boys City Drive.
Ruth Hackbirth Skeel made the request before the council on behalf of her brother Robert Hackbirth. The alley is right between two properties he owns.
“It’s simply yard that’s between the two lots,” she said. “Winona Lake has never done anything in terms of putting down stone or any form of road, if you will, improvements there.”
Neighboring property owner Barb Wooler then spoke, saying she opposed the vacation. She uses the alley to take her motorcycle out from her property and get to her backlot.
The council tabled the request.
In other business, council also:
- Approved a memorandum of understanding with Warsaw Community Schools regarding creating a tax increment financing district in part of the town. Money raised from property taxes on new construction in the district will help pay for projects at Jefferson Elementary School. Tax rates are not being raised.
- Heard that KringleFest will not happen this year due to new state COVID-19 restrictions.
Instead children may submit letters to Santa and receive replies. People must submit forms, which may found outside of Town Hall or online at www.winonalake.net.
They may be dropped off in a mailbox outside Town Hall from Nov. 23-Dec. 7.
- Heard from Terry White that the Christmas in the Village Glad Tidings Concert set for Dec. 13 in the Heritage Room is now to be virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. More information on how the public may view it will be coming up.
The council’s next regular meeting is 6 p.m. on Dec. 15. The meeting is to be virtual due to COVID-19, with the public being able to find a link to it on the town’s website.