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Stormwater tax advances

The City Council moved ahead Thursday with plans for a new tax to pay for stormwater projects.

The Council voted 5-2 for the tax over objections from International Plaza shopping mall, which could pay thousands under a new tax.

Only City Council members Shawn Harrison and Bob Buckhorn, who campaigned against the tax in his unsuccessful bid for mayor, voted no.

The two remaining candidates for mayor, Pam Iorio and Frank Sanchez, say they support the proposed tax.

Under the plan, homeowners would pay $12 a year and apartment dwellers would pay $6 a year. But commercial property owners would pay a fee based on runoff caused by their buildings and parking lots.

A lawyer and engineer for International Plaza argued that the tax structure did not give developers credit for creating modern stormwater systems to prevent runoff. A representative for the Westshore Alliance raised the same concerns.

Attorney David Mechanik told the council that the city should lessen the fee for builders who spend money to prevent stormwater problems. He also asked for a procedure to appeal tax decisions for individual properties.

City attorneys told the council that the public would get a chance once a year to object to rates at a public hearing.

The council will vote again on the tax at a second hearing this month. In the summer, the board will hold another vote to set the actual stormwater tax rates.

By then, the new stormwater tax will be placed on property tax bills of most Tampa property owners.

Moses Knott Jr., a Tampa resident who often speaks at council meetings, warned about the outcry that will follow when the tax bills arrive in the mail. Even though newspapers have reported on the tax, most people don't know about it, he said.

"People are asleep," Knott said. "And when they get their bills, oh God, they will come in."