CHESTER >> The Chester Stormwater Authority and Widener University are on the verge of a settlement that could resolve the issue of Widener’s impact fees with the authority as it also awaits for direction from Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge Spiros E. Angelos.
Authority representatives have been negotiating with Widener University for about two months and are hopeful to reach a settlement in the fall, authority Solicitor Joseph Oxman said.
“We are hoping that it will be reached very soon,” he explained.
Widener University was the largest plaintiff in four suits involving 40 plaintiffs that challenged the legality of the authority’s fee structure. Attorney Rocco Imperatrice was representing all 40 of the plaintiffs.
However, Oxman said he was notified that Imperatrice said once the Widener settlement is finalized, he is not going to represent any of the other plaintiffs.
Oxman said the authority received three subpoenas from Best Homes DDJ LLC, being represented by Thomas A. Musi Jr. The subpoenas were for the consulting firm, Corvias, a private partner of the authority; Minol, the firm that’s involved with the impact fee billing and receivables and HDR Inc., the firm that did the impact study for the authority and created the impact fee structure.
Oxman said Best Homes request information but that he is filing an objection to that request today.
“All that information has been litigated when we had the hearing/trial back on March 3,” Oxman contended, adding that he will be requesting a conference with Judge Angelos in the matter. “All the relevant issues were litigated on March 3. it’s done. All he has to do is rule.”
Oxman outlined the issues that surfaced during the previous proceedings that sought a permanent injunction to the impact fees.
One was that the authority arbitrarily manufactured the impact fees.
Oxman said starting in the middle of last year, HDR did an extensive satellite mapping of Chester, identifying every single property and its impervious land mapping.
After confirming their mapping data by having representatives go to each of these properties, HDR developed the impact fees, according to the authority attorney.
Secondly, the plaintiffs argued that the impact fee was not reasonably related to stormwater business.
Oxman said Howard Neukrug, former commissioner and CEO of the Philadelphia Water Department and now a University of Pennsylvania professor, testified that the Chester Stormwater Authority impact fees were related to the projects they had planned.
He said Neukrug outlined that no authority can move forward with capital projects solely on impact fee revenue and that further bonds will be needed as long as the authority is capable of paying the interest on those bonds.
Thirdly, the plaintiffs alleged that DELCORA is, in effect, the city’s stormwater authority.
Mike DeSantis of DELCORA explained that DELCORA does not have control of the stormwater outlets and that the city owns and is responsible for the upkeep of the stormwater inlets and piping, according to Oxman.
Finally, the plaintiffs equated the fee to a tax.
“That fails miserably because the Legislature doesn’t control this money,” Oxman said. “It’s a fee from an authority.”
Now, he said the authority is working to complete its negotiations with Widener, which is seeking to decrease its approximate $200,000 of impact fees with in-kind services such as having engineering students work at the authority as interns or having academic instructors and professors do work for the authority as consultants.