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Appeals court rejects MSD stormwater fee

(Andrew Wamboldt/KOMU News - via Flickr)

Updated at 2:20 with comments from MSD.

A ruling from the Missouri Court of Appeals is a mixed bag for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

The decision today is the latest in a series of rulings on a storm water "user charge" the agency implemented in 2007.  The charge was based on the impervious area of a property, and replaced a system of a flat tax that could be enhanced by additional taxes in 21 sub-districts.

In the ruling, two of the three judges  upheld an earlier trial court ruling that the new storm water charge was a tax under the Hancock Amendment and therefore had to go in front of voters in MSD's service area. Judge Lawrence E. Mooney disagreed.

But all three judges agreed that the trial court erred in doubling the amount of money MSD had to pay in attorneys fees. The court also upheld an earlier ruling that the plaintiffs were not entitled to a refund of the storm water charges they had already paid.

In a statement, MSD said it would need time to review the opinion before deciding on a next legal step.  The statement continues:

That being said, we still believe we created a charge that is a user fee and not a tax, utilizing a process that was voter approved and permissible under Missouri law for the setting of user fees.  In the meantime, thousands of customers – particularly those customers in the far reaches of St. Louis County - continue to go without desperately needed stormwater services because of this lawsuit.



Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.