|Action||Amend Parts I, II, and III of the Virginia Stormwater Management Program Permit Regulations to address water quality and quantity and local stormwater management program criteria.|
|Comment Period||Ends 8/21/2009|
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed stormwater regulations. I doubt there is anyone in the Commonwealth who does not support the goal of a cleaner and healthier Chesapeake Bay. However, the regulations in their current form are not a cost-effective or reasonable approach, will not be very effective in improving the health of the Bay, and the adverse consequences of implementing the regulations will be severe. I am a practicing land use and real estate attorney in Charlottesville, and I work with a number of clients on development projects of all sizes. I have represented private developers, private foundations, university institutions, a non-profit community hospital, and a number of public and quasi-public institutions, and these regulations will negatively impact their ability to develop cost-effective projects, including those that have already been rezoned and are subject to extremely detailed proffered plans of development. Albemarle County, where the majority of projects that I work on are located, has a Comphensive Plan that has set aside only five percent of its land area for development with the remaining 95% designated as "Rural Areas" with the goal of preserving our community's farmland, forests and open space. Although low-level residential development is permitted in the Rural Areas, Albemarle's comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance strictly limit development there, and impose stringent environmental regulations on any projects. By contrast, the Comphensive Plan and zoning ordinance encourage and support large, planned, mixed use, high-density development projects in the designated development areas. The goal is to concentrate the new development in the development areas, and create attactive, walkable communities where people really want to live and work, so there is less pressure to develop the Rural Areas, and so that the County's infrastructure can be concentrated in a smaller area. This concept has broad and long-standing community support, and is perfectly consistent with legislation recently enacted requiring localities to establish such Urban Development Areas (UDAs) in their Comprehensive Plans.
However, by requiring that the phosphorus limits be met on site, it will be nearly impossible for projects in the dense UDAs to achieve the necessary density and comply with the regulations. As a result it will be difficult for Albemarle and other jurisdictions to achieve sufficiently density in the UDAs to relieve pressure on the Rural Areas, which will ulimately result in more development there and more of the sprawl that the Comphrensive Plan attempts to avoid. For achieving the phosphorus removal standards in Part II of the regulations will be far easier in the Rural Areas, where one can buy much more land for the money, for more land will be needed to comply on site.
Another way the regulations will impact our community is through the absence of a grandfathering provision. Applicants, and County staff, Planning Commissioners, and Board of Supervisors members, along with large numbers of the general public, have spent thousands of hours reviewing and negotiating many large-scale development projects in the community that involved extremely detailed proffered plans. Many of these projects have very long build-out schedules due to their size and complexity. However, absent an effective grandfathering provision, these plans will be essentially worthless to the community, for the owners will no longer be able to build the projects in accord with the approved plans. This unintended consequence will likely require owners to go back to the drawing board and repeat the process, which is not in anyone's best interest.
I encourage you to pay particular attention to the proposals submitted by David Slutzky, the Chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. His proposed alternatives to the current regulations have been well thought through, are reasonable, fair and would be far more effective at achieving actual improvement in the health of the Bay in a much shorter time period than would the regulations in their current form. And the flexible nature of the proposal would enable projects to achieve the standards through a variety of means on a case-by-case basis. It is a results-oriented solution that would be far superior than the "one-size-fits-all" approach of the current proposal.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Valerie W. Long