Storm Water Sewer Charge for Foertmeyer Greenhouse Still Unresolved

Earlier this year it was discovered that the Village of Swanton was inadvertently charging several businesses the residential monthly rate for storm water sewer charges of $3.00 instead of a commercial rate determined by a calculation of the total impervious area on the property.  One such business was Foertmeyer Greenhouse located on Hallet Avenue which, after a Google Earth survey discovered the business covered 168,000 square feet, was charged a new monthly rate of $589.89 then reduced to by 30% by Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle.

The discounted monthly charge of $412.93 was disputed by the greenhouse’s owner Mark Foertmeyer who claimed most of the rainfall on his business property flows east into a creek, away from the Village.  A public hearing was held to allow him to plead his case.  Mr. Foertmeyer asked that he be given time to have the topography of his property professionally surveyed to determine how much storm water falling on the greenhouse property actually flowed into the Village’s storm water system.

At the September 13th Village Council meeting, results of that survey, taken by Natural Resources Management (NRM) of Sylvania were presented by Chip Tokar of NRM.  Mr. Tokar explained that his staff was able to get the most recent topographical information from the county and United States Geographical Survey (USGS) to use for the study.

“What we were able to do is overlay those topographical contours onto the property itself.  We were able to show that the topography flows from west to east starting at the street,” he said.  “So, the highest elevations on Mr. Foertmeyer’s property are right at the street edge, parallel to the street north and south and generally slopes west to east from there.”

Mr. Tokar also pointed out that the Village’s catch basins are located on the edge of the street and most of the storm water that enters those comes from the street itself.  He did say that the driveways on the greenhouse property sloped toward the street and contributed to the Village’s storm water. 

When asked by Councilman Dave Pilliod what he thought would be a fair charge, Mr. Tokar said, “In all fairness, all the storm water going on to his property is going to his own catch basins and his own drains and draining into a ditch back there.  If I had to guess, just based on this topography, it’s probably five percent of this whole area that you’re looking at that would drain to the (Village).”

Assuming the five percent estimate is accurate, the recalculated charge would fall into the $30.00 range.  Now that the Village has the topographical survey data it will need to consult with its engineers before settling on a final charge.  With the next round of water bills due to come out just two days after the meeting, the Village said it would charge Foertmeyer Greenhouse $412 for that bill and would hope to have a firm answer in time for the next Council meeting on September 27, 2021.

Pictured:  Chip Tokar of Natural Resources Management presents topographical evidence to Council

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