Businesses that have voiced frustration with surprising sewer hook-up charges may get some relief.

The Metropolitan Council is in the final stages of streamlining how it calculates the wastewater fees on development, which cities pass on to businesses and developers. The changes passed the council’s environment committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Known as sewer access charges, or SAC, the fees help the council pay for expansions of the wastewater system to keep up with the growing demands of the metro area. They are charged once on developments likely to send more water into the system, such as a new apartment building or an expanded business.

Each SAC fee costs $2,485 this year. Calculating how much a business owes depends on the property’s current and previous use.

Among other changes, the new process will focus more on the primary uses of a building and make it easier to prove that a fee has already been paid in the past.

It also eliminates the charge for remodeling projects that keep the same use, vs. calculating the square feet available for seating.

“What this is doing here is it eliminates the SAC surprise,” Ned Smith, of the Met Council’s Environmental Services department, said at Tuesday’s committee meeting. “Because … people were shocked that if I’m a Caribou [coffee shop] and I’m taking over a Starbucks, how on Earth could I have SAC due?”

The changes were recommended by a task force of city officials and business representatives, formed in fall 2016 to evaluate the program.

SAC fees paid for about 14 percent of the $270 million in wastewater revenue collected by the council last year.

The bulk of the remainder was paid through residents’ sewer bills.

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