Proponents say it’s more fair, but Vice Mayor Brett Moss wants to slow down consideration of a major change to Key Biscayne’s stormwater fees that would shift costs from condominiums to single family homes. The law would replace flat fees with specific property calculations.
Some larger properties could see eight-fold increases in the amount they pay to maintain the island’s stormwater system, according to a report from the Raftelis consulting firm. The drainage system is expected to go through massive investment as part of the Village’s efforts to combat sea level rise, and changes to the rate structure could have long-lasting implications — even though the change itself is revenue neutral.
“It’s not ready for a final vote,” Moss said. “I want to make sure this is not a rubber stamp” of the administration’s recommendation. Moss, a candidate for mayor, said he will ask the Council to delay consideration of the new law, which is set for a second reading next week.
Under the proposed change, the burden placed on single family home dwellers would more than double, from $407,830 to $903,893, according to the Raftelis study. Multi-family properties correspondingly would see their share drop to $775,952 from the current charges of $1.148 million.
“We feel this method is more fair and accurate,” said Benjamin Nussbaum, the Village’s chief financial officer. He said upcoming planned spending on stormwater heightens the need to make equitable changes. “Timing is of the essence,” he said.
The current system, in place since 1993, takes a “flat fee” approach which is common in the state, Raftelis said. Single family homes pay $25.35, while multi-family units pay $16.90 — without respect to size of the property.
Under the proposed law, the median single family home’s monthly fee would rise to $49.44 from $25.35, while the median condominium property’s fee would drop from $16.90 a month to $9.93 a month.
The proposed system would be based on a calculation of “impervious area” as determined by an aerial survey done by Miami-Dade County. Impervious areas, such as roofs and driveways, cause rainwater to run off into the stormwater system. The ordinance could incentivize property owners to lessen stormwater runoff, Nussbaum said.
Condominium leaders have long complained that the flat fee structure is unfair. Leaders of the Key Colony complex brought suit in the 1990’s, but an appellate court left the rate methodology intact, saying the Village was entitled to “a presumption of correctness.”
Example of changes to monthly fees. Source: Raftelis via Village of Key Biscayne
In 2019, then-Manager Andrea Agha held a meeting with condominium leaders, single family home representatives, and Mayor Mike Davey about the equity of the system. The Raftelis study is the outgrowth of that meeting, current and former officials said.
Fausto Gomez, a leader of the Condominium President’s Council and a possible mayoral candidate, said he was present at that meeting. He said he was pleased the Village is close to taking action after many years. “They are trying to make the system fairer for all users.”
Moss said he is not necessarily opposed to the change, but said there are still aspects of the law that have not been vetted. “I think there are things that still need to be researched.”
The Raftelis firm said the Village should consider other aspects of the policy, such as exemptions, affordability policies, and credits for onsite stormwater storage and retention systems.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.