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Seminar set to explain new storm-water fee in Lexington

Did you know that churches and schools with large parking lots could be hit hard by a new storm sewer fee Lexington is expected to impose next year?

Or that you might be able to reduce the fee you would pay for your home by putting in a rain barrel or rain garden?

A three-hour seminar to explore the new fee and other aspects of the city's sewer agreement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency is planned for Sept. 30.

It's called Consent Decree for Dummies, but you don't have to be dumb to go.

The decree, signed in February, is complex and has widespread implications. It requires the city to spend $250 million to $300 million during the next dozen years to fix many longstanding problems that violated the Clean Water Act by sending untreated sewage into creeks, yards and basements.

The seminar is sponsored by Commerce Lexington, which represents the city's business interests. The organization has been critical of a proposal linked to the plan that would require new developments to show they would not overload sewers before being approved.

But Bob Quick, the president and CEO of Commerce Lexington, says the purpose of the seminar is not to bash the consent decree. And it's not just for Commerce Lexington members.

"What a lot of people don't realize is there's going to be a storm-water tax," said Scott R. Smith of Smith Management Group, who will speak at the seminar. "A lot of non-profits — churches and schools — are going to have surprises."

Although city officials have not decided how much the fee will be, Smith says he has a formula that will allow people to plug in the amount of impervious surfaces (roofs and parking lots) on their property and come up with a rough cost estimate.

Cheryl Taylor, the city's environmental quality commissioner, also will speak. She said Lexington officials are looking at methods other cities have used to allow landowners to reduce fees by creating more green space or putting in rain gardens.

Rena Wiseman, who often represents developers, will talk about how the EPA agreement will affect getting the necessary permits.

Chad Harpole, Commerce Lexington's vice president for public policy, said the seminar will be first in a series as the city moves through the years-long process of fixing sewer problems.