Using Stormwater Utility Fees to Promote Low-Impact Development in Frisco

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Trey Shanks

Environmental Scientist

Co-authored by Lesley Brooks

The City of Frisco established a Stormwater Utility Fee (SWUF) in 2009 with the help of Freese and Nichols to offset the increased costs of stormwater management practices, such as maintenance and the cost of capital improvement projects. In 2014, the City asked Freese and Nichols to perform a review of the fee structure and to update the fees to account for increased requirements due to the City’s Phase II MS4. The project also included the development of a SWUF credit system that would allow non-residential properties to reduce their SWUF through the implementation of practices that would reduce their impacts on the quantity and quality of the stormwater runoff that is conveyed to the municipal system.

The review of the City’s current SWUF rates showed that Frisco was on the lower end of the SWUF rates being applied throughout the area. It was also discovered that a rate increase that was supposed to take place in 2011 never occurred. The increase in SWUF rates that were proposed (and later adopted by the City) would bring their rates closer to the area average.

While the City understood the need for the increased rate, there was still some hesitancy regarding the appearance of adding financial burden, specifically to commercial businesses. Given the recent economic downturn and the political landscape, any rate increase needed to be thoroughly reviewed and justifiable. Keeping this in mind, our team also suggested the development of a SWUF credit policy that would help reduce the cost burden to nonresidential property owners while improving the quality of development in Frisco and reducing the impacts to the municipal system.

Our team reviewed other SWUF credit programs in the region and then customized a list of possible credits for the City of Frisco (click chart at right to view larger list of credits). The program would allow commercial properties to receive up to a 40 percent reduction on their monthly SWUF, which would completely negate the impact of the rate increase. When looking at the practices for which the City would provide credit, our team wanted to focus on those that would add benefit to the City through a reduction of impact on the municipal system and by encouraging better development practices.  

Knowing that outreach was important, we met with Frisco City Council members to discuss their concerns and ideas about the policy. One councilmember mentioned how the City has been trying to encourage better detention pond design and asked if that could be incorporated into the policy. This brought to mind the zoning policies that our Freese and Nichols Urban Planning Team had recently developed for the City of Frisco, which had optional “Open Space” requirements and provided criteria for developing more aesthetic detention ponds such as those pictured at left. The required elements include: located between the building and the street; viewable from public space; sides slopes not to exceed 33 percent; accessible by patrons; seating area, public art, or fountain included; planting requirements; and acknowledgment of the owner to maintain the pond. Using the policy that was already in place we were able to incorporate the councilmember’s request while building cohesion into the City’s policies.

Through collaboration with City staff and Council and with the use of innovative practices, the City of Frisco will be able to meet their needs of an increased SWUF while accommodating businesses with the option of obtaining a credit for incorporating better management practices into their site regarding stormwater management.

Trey Shanks, CFM, and Lesley Brooks, P.E., CFM, Stormwater, Dallas, and City of Frisco’s Perry Harts presented this project and drew a standing-room-only crowd at the 2015 Texas Floodplain Management Association Spring Conference. To learn more about this project or using stormwater utility fees, contact Lesley Brooks.

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Trey Shanks, CFM, IAM, leads Freese and Nichols’ Asset Management services. He is a Principal in our Fort Worth office.