Like the spider in the poem, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD) entices Hudson to sign a contract and get $110,000 and “assistance” in handling stormwater projects. Like the poor fly, once we sign on, we’re stuck, and who knows what consequences it will have for First & Main Phase 2 or development of the YDC property.
City Council will reconsider a tabled resolution authorizing us to enter a “Regional Stormwater Management Program Agreement” which allows us to receive assistance in stormwater-related planning, inspection, emergency response and construction activities in downtown and the northeast section of Hudson – the Brandywine Creek watershed.
The program is funded by stormwater “fees” charged to all property owners in the district. NEORSD is able to run this program because the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that they had the authority. The lawsuit was brought by several communities, including Hudson, as well as developers and landowners.
Having lost in court, Hudson and other communities are forced into a “shotgun wedding” – to sign an agreement with NEORSD that gives us 25% of the fees back to use in Hudson on Brandywine projects. This is the $110,000 a year, and I am willing to pass up this “offer” because it comes with too many potential “strings.” If we vote “no,” to the agreement, the residents still pay the fee, but NEORSD keeps its hands off Hudson. Approve it, and there’s a potential that Hudson may have to wait for NEORSD’s approval of developments like the Barlow Community Center pond improvements, the look of Phase 2 downtown, or determining how, if at all, we develop an office park at the YDC site. All of these are in the NEORSD management area.
What we give up if we sign is the right of NEORSD to review our plans, and we have to comply with “Title V” of their Code. These are the “webs” that will be our legacy. Right now they are just reviews and consultation, but there is a strong possibility that will change, with only the Courts between us and a new set of planners and regulators. History has shown us that NEORSD plays by its own rules. What starts as theoretical discussions today, small steps to agree to oversight, form legally binding associations tomorrow, especially when dollars start flowing. Welcome to the web, Mr. Fly.
NEORSD started stormwater discussions over 10 years ago as an advisory group. Our Mayor participated in those discussions in the spirit of regionalism, and it ended up working against us when we tried to argue in court that we were not part of the proposed stormwater district when it finally came together. The State Legislature created Wastewater Districts in 1971; it took until 2015 for the Courts to rule “stormwater” was the same as “wastewater” and gave NEORSD a new political authority that it created for itself.
Who knows what new authority to regulate development “Title V” will give NEORSD in the future. There is an active school of thought in Cleveland planning circles that all their problems would be solved if only development (“sprawl”) could be curtailed and more activity channeled into the central city areas. The NEORSD stormwater fund may be managing water on the surface, but what is really flowing downstream to Cleveland is our wealth and our power.