How is the BBWARM service charge calculated?

Single family residences and duplexes

Single family residences are charged for one equivalent service unit (ESU) at the rates listed in the table below. The rate charged depends on the development density – the percentage of your property covered by impervious surfaces such as pavement, rooftops, driveways, and parking areas. The average single family home in Birch Bay has 4,000 square feet of impervious surface (based on 152 random samples). This number is used with parcel size to calculate development density.

Other developed properties

All other developed properties are charged at the rates listed in the table above for every ESU on the property. An ESU is 4,000 square feet of measured impervious area. Gravel driveways and parking lots are considered impervious areas. Other developed properties include apartments, condominiums, commercial or industrial businesses, RV parks, churches, and parks.

Undeveloped properties

Properties without impervious surfaces are not charged a stormwater fee.

Questions About Your Charge?

Please contact us at (360) 778-6230 with any questions about the BBWARM service charge on your property tax statement.

Commonly Asked Questions

Can my fee be reduced?

Some properties may qualify for a service charge rate adjustment (rate reduction) as allowed in Whatcom County Code 100.07.070. Reductions vary from 2.5% to 28.2% of the total annual charge. Rate reductions are available for:

  • Small single family residences with less than 2,000 feet of impervious surface.

  • Parcels associated with a privately owned and properly maintained engineered stormwater facility.

  • Parcels with a rainwater harvesting system sized to collect stormwater from the available roof surface.

  • Contiguous lots with the same owner and a common stormwater system.

  • Low-income seniors may qualify for an exemption through the Whatcom County Assessor Department.

Please call staff at Whatcom County Public Works to determine if your property may be eligible for a rate reduction and for assistance filling out the Service Charge Adjustment Request Form. Service charge adjustment requests must be submitted using the form provided within 30 days of the date of the billing.

How is the money spent?

The money generated by the BBWARM service charge goes into a dedicated fund that can only be used for BBWARM stormwater program expenses. Unspent money is saved for future capital projects eliminating the need for financing. For more information read the annual financial report.

Is this a new charge?

The BBWARM service charge began in 2009.

What is the service charge based on?

The service charge is based on the program costs identified in the 2006 Birch Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Plan.

What is impervious surface area?

Impervious surface area is hard surface, such as that found on rooftops, sidewalks, parking lots, and gravel or hard-packed dirt, which impedes the natural infiltration of stormwater into the ground.

Who has to pay?

Generally, all owners of developed property in the BBWARM District pay the stormwater service charge including houses, schools, churches, public property, and businesses. Streets serve to convey surface water runoff to the benefit of the stormwater system and so are exempted from the charge.

Is there a review process for this service charge?

Incorrect charges may be appealed within thirty days of the date of the bill.

How much money does this service charge raise?

The service charge generates approximately $740,000 annually. Future revenue will vary based on the number of new developments in the watershed and rate adjustments granted.

Why are public properties, churches, and schools being billed?

The service charge, just like water and sewer rates, is based upon the cost of services provided. Because this is not a tax, it must be collected from all properties that receive service. Public properties, churches, and schools contribute a significant amount of runoff because of their size and amount of hard surface.

Why is there a flat rate for residential properties within each density designation?

Most residences have a similar amount of impervious area. The flat rate simplifies the administration of the charge but maintains the equity of the charge structure.

My home/business is not connected to the public drainage system, or I have built on-site facilities to manage my runoff. Why should I have to pay?

Your property may not be physically connected to the drainage system in the same manner as it is to water and/or sewer service, or you may have built on-site facilities, but you and your property are still provided service. The BBWARM stormwater program improves and maintains stormwater systems throughout the watershed protecting properties from potentially damaging upstream flows and working to ensure pollution stays out of stormwater. Every property and person in the watershed is served by these activities, either directly or indirectly.

Is this drainage charge deductible on my income tax?

For residential customers, this is a service charge and not a tax. It cannot be deducted from your income tax. For non-single family property owners, the charge may be considered a cost of doing business by the IRS depending on your specific tax situation.

How can you impose this tax without a vote?

This is not a tax, but a user fee. A vote was not required.

I am a renter, do I pay the charge or does the landlord?

The charge is included in the annual property tax statement, which is sent to the property owner.

Have similar programs been used elsewhere?

Yes. Large and small communities throughout the nation have adopted stormwater control programs and local service charges. Local examples include Bellingham, Skagit County, and Burlington.

Is this a one-time charge?

No, it is an ongoing charge for the development of new and maintenance of existing stormwater control facilities plus operational expenses for water quality monitoring and public involvement.

How can I be sure that this money won't pay for other County projects?

By law, these charges may not exceed the cost of providing improvements and services. Your stormwater charges will go into a special fund which will be used only to pay for the BBWARM stormwater program.

What led to this fee?

Growth and development is continuing in and around the Birch Bay Community. In 2002, the Birch Bay Community Steering Committee was organized to address the rapidly increasing population and development in the area. A key concern of the group was the impact of development on the water quality of the Bay itself. A number of citizens joined in as the Stormwater and Shellfish Protection subgroup to focus on the impacts of stormwater. Starting in 2005, this group worked with representatives of the Whatcom County Planning and Development Department and a consulting firm to begin to address the areas of concern. Their effort resulted in the Birch Bay Comprehensive Stormwater Plan. This plan was adopted in 2006 and provides guidance on addressing or preventing current and future problems related to increasing flooding and erosion, declining water quality and loss of aquatic habitat as a result of increasing growth and development in the region.