Task Force Considers Stormwater Incentive to Bring Grocers to Underserved Areas of Tulsa

Jul 11, 2018

A city task force on hunger is in the early stages of coming up with a stormwater fee incentive to encourage grocery stores in underserved areas of Tulsa.

The City of Tulsa has taken a look at how much grocers generally pay, which is calculated based on how much impervious surface area they have — basically, how big the parking lot is. The typical range is $180 to $600 a month.

"We’ve got grocery stores that range from around an acre all the way up to the supercenter-type, multi-acre sites, and you’ve got a utility bill just for stormwater that starts around $100 and goes all the way up to $1,000 a month for the Walmart-type development," said Stormwater Lead Engineer Brad Jackson.

The incentive idea came from Councilor Ben Kimbro, who said there are many barriers preventing grocers from setting up shop in parts of Tulsa.

"It’s not the thing that stops grocery development, but it is a consideration that we need to take a look at and see — particularly to get people into disused retail that’s not cash flowing — look at ways possibly to help them out in their startup," Kimbro said.

The idea could also benefit vacant commercial properties struggling to find tenants.

One wrinkle to giving businesses a break on the fee, however, is it goes entirely back into the stormwater system so shorting it could mean deferred projects.

"The system starts to degrade, and if it falls apart, you get loss of public and private property. And then if we don’t maintain it to a certain rate, then our flood insurance rates for our citizens could potentially go up," Jackson said."

Tulsa's stormwater system currently has the second-highest rating from the federal government, giving residents up to a 40 percent discount on flood insurance.

There’s presently no timeline for bringing the incentive proposal to the city council.