Towns and counties will have the power to impose fees on property owners to pay for upgrades to antiquated stormwater systems based on how much they contribute to runoff, under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Phil Murphy.

Call a "rain tax" by opponents and "flood defense" by supporters, the measure does not impose a wide-ranging tax on a community. But it allows towns and counties to target properties where stormwater easily washes off — a leading cause of local flooding and high levels of pollution in the state's waterways.

The most likely properties to be affected would be large malls and office parks with expansive parking lots.

The bill, S-1073, lets municipalities and counties create their own local stormwater utility that could then charge property owners a fee based on "a fair and equitable approximation" of how much runoff is generated from their property. 

Supporters say the law will help restore health to lakes and bays and bring relief to flood-prone communities.


Property owners could get their fees reduced by installing "rain barrels, rain gardens and other naturally based systems that absorb water like a sponge," said Ed Potosnak, director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. "So folks are empowered to lower any fees."

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