By Sean Tubbs

Collectbritain

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Charlottesville City Council has offered its support of

proposed amendments to the stormwater management program

overseen by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The changes would require certain localities, including Charlottesville and Albemarle County, to develop and implement their own programs to ensure that runoff from new developments is contained or mitigated. The goal is to reduce the amount of pollutants that enter the Chesapeake Bay.


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A two-month public comment period ends this week. The DCR acknowledges in a presentation on its website that the regulations will likely be amended due to the concerns of several localities. If adopted, localities would have until October 2011 to implement the mandated programs.

The plan would require localities to review every new development to see how it would contain stormwater. Developers would need to submit a stormwater management plan that tracks every possible way rainwater could leave the property both during construction and upon completion. The developer would also be required to pay a fee in exchange for a permit. If a developer is in violation of the permit, penalties could be as high as $25,000 a day. Localities that fail to implement a program to DCR’s satisfaction would be subject to similar fines levied by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Given the many different types of developments that could be built across Virginia, the regulations provide for ways to mitigate the effects of stormwater using a series of best management practices. Developments that utilize such techniques as green roofs, rainwater barrels and permeable pavement would get credit for cleansing stormwater of pollutants. Developments that cannot meet the state’s requirements to reduce pollutants can negotiate with other land-owners to create improvements off-site so that the locality’s total pollutant load is reduced.

On August 17, 2009, the City’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services, Jim Tolbert, sought Councils’ input on a letter he drafted on their behalf to DCR. He said staff has spent a considerable time researching the potential effects of the change on development in Charlottesville.

“We’ve looked at them and feel like from the City of Charlottesville’s standpoint, we need to be supportive of these,” Tolbert said. “We feel like they are part of the state’s green initiative, and they are well-thought out.”

However, Tolbert said the City does have some concerns that they would like addressed before the state regulations go into effect. For example, Tolbert wants more guidance on how a program to allow for offsets in other parts of a locality would be implemented, especially in urban communities like Charlottesville that do not have much open space.

Tolbert also said he is concerned the currently proposed regulations would apply to developments that the City has already approved, but which have not been built. He also suggested that DCR consider reducing the costs to developers by allowing tax credits for the implementation of best practices.

Tolbert said relatively few new developments in Charlottesville would be affected by the program, which only applies to projects that exceed one acre in size. He said of the 45 site plans approved by Council in the past year, only six would have been subject to the new regulations. He warned that the regulations would make development of the Water Street parking lots problematic because the site’s current condition is 100% impervious surface.

Council voted 5-0 to adopt the letter.

Albemarle County’s reaction has been a little less welcoming. Tolbert’s counterpart in Albemarle County, Community Development Director Mark Graham,

told the Board of Supervisors in May

that the regulations would discourage dense development in the County’s designated growth areas because of the potential of large stormwater fees.

On August 5, 2009, Supervisors voted 6-0 to pass a resolution expressing its concern over the proposed regulations. The resolution expresses the concern that County staff does not have the resources to conduct the necessary inspections. The resolution also outlines the County’s view that the proposed regulations would be in conflict with

Virginia law that requires comprehensive plans

to include urban development areas, a practice Albemarle County has had in place since the

1971 Comprehensive Plan

.

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