|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|
The Regulatory Coordinator
To Whom It May Concern:
The Home Building Association of Richmond (HBAR) appreciates the opportunity to offer these comments concerning the proposed stormwater management regulations offered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
HBAR recognizes that new development causes some of the pollutant problems existing in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. It also recognizes, however, that there are many sources of pollutants in the watershed not caused by new development. The way a homeowner treats their yard with fertilizer to help grass grow – sometimes, too much fertilizer – causes nitrogen and phosphorus problems. The way a business owner hoses down asphalt in front of their business causes wastewater problems. The way a person washes their vehicles and allows the soapy, dirty water to run into the sewer system and into creeks and streams causes other chemical problems. HBAR has not seen or heard any recognition of these problems from DCR.
The DCR proposal causes great concern among the
The DCR proposal has numerous problems.
1) The proposal requires all development meet a .28 pounds per acre per year mitigation standard for phosphorus runoff. There are many problems with this standard.
a. According to researchers at Virginia Tech who studied this proposal last fall, there doesn’t appear to be any scientific data to support this level. DCR has refused to state why this level has been set or provide any scientific data to support its conclusions.
b. For residential development, a .28 standard will require larger home lot sizes and more dedicated open space so that the land can adequately filter pollutants from runoff before it reaches tributaries flowing into the watershed. As larger lots and more open space is needed, more land will also be needed. Builders and developers will look further outside of urban areas for that land because land is limited in most urban areas. The .28 standard will cause urban sprawl on an enormous level. Even some environmentalists admit this fact.
c. For commercial development, with its larger structural footprints, a .28 standard is realistically impossible to meet. Civil engineers have told HBAR that developers would have to purchase almost double the normal amount of land to build a simple 80,000-square-foot, three-story office building, making construction financially unfeasible. Even more land would be needed for industrial development as it manages chemicals and other harmful materials, making it too expensive to undertake as well. The smallest of elementary schools currently built on 20 acres would need almost 35 acres under this proposal, making it far too expensive for a local government to build. The larger the school, the more land that would have to be purchased and the higher the cost to local governments. The .28 standard would make new construction overly costly for financially-strapped local governments and essentially stop commercial construction, doing permanent damage to economic development efforts statewide.
2) The requirement of a 20 percent reduction from predevelopment loads on redeveloped lots will be extremely difficult for residential or commercial development to meet. Redevelopment projects are not normally land-expandable. Therefore, the additional 20 percent would have to be met with the same lot sizes which, in many cases, will not provide enough land for nutrient filtration. It will make much potential redevelopment, particularly in urban areas, cost ineffective.
3) The larger lot sizes the proposal demands will cause severe damage to infill development efforts. Richmond and the state’s other large cities would have a difficult time attempting revitalization projects, where residential and commercial lot sizes cannot be easily or cost-effectively expanded due to existing infrastructure from previous development.
4) The larger lots also will seriously hamper efforts to utilize state-mandated urban development areas (UDA) in high-growth areas. UDAs, mandated by HB 3202 during the 2008 General Assembly, will provide high-density residential and commercial development where people can use mass transportation or self-transportation options to get around, cutting traffic congestion and air pollutants and encouraging more open space. Under the proposed regulations high-density development is not practical, and UDAs most likely cannot be utilized.
5) New affordable housing, which at this time almost does not exist in the
6) The cost per new home to implement this proposal ranges from troubling to astronomical. According to DCR, the proposal will add $6,200 to the cost of each new home. But a report from The Timmons Group, a highly-respected Richmond-based engineering firm with more than 50 years experience, says the cost will be about $30,000 per new home. The Economic Impact Analysis from the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget (DPB) states, “the total incremental costs to the state of implementing additional stormwater control practices to meet the proposed regulatory changes could not be estimated at this time.” It further states, “the proposed regulations will directly impact private land developers, businesses and homeowners.
7) The proposal is a statewide, “one-size-fits-all” proposal. The same regulations would apply for
8) While DCR data show that agricultural sources present a larger nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff problem than development, the proposal offers no regulation on agricultural sources. HBAR understands and appreciates that the agribusiness community has voluntarily implemented measures to help reduce runoff pollution, but with the voluntary measures the DCR data still show agricultural sources measuring almost three times the sediment runoff, more than twice the nitrogen runoff and almost 50 percent more phosphorus runoff than development. Therefore, the proposal should not treat the development industry as the sole cause of pollutants running into the Bay, as it does.
9) A Technical Advisory Committee was formed by DCR to help draft these regulations. According to members who sat on that committee, no consensus for approval of these regulations was ever obtained.
10) Some engineers believe that, were the current stormwater management regulations to be fully enforced, the state could eliminate up to 75 percent of the problems with pollutant control into the watershed. If this is true, the actual cost of a new program built upon the current program would be considerably less.
The Home Builders Association of Virginia (HBAV) has offered a viable alternative to the DCR proposal which, unfortunately, has been given little consideration by DCR. It includes:
1) Maintaining the current .45 standard in the Chesapeake Bay Act and expanding it to the rest of the state.
2) Allowing phosphorus levels as high as .60 pounds per acre per year, and requiring a contribution of $15,000 per pound to the state’s Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF) to make up the difference between the .60 and .45 levels. To calculate the contribution, multiply the size of the parcel by the .15 difference in phosphorus mitigation by the $15,000 per pound figure. For a 100-acre parcel the amount paid would be $225,000.
3) Designating the money contributed to the WQIF yearly as grants to assist in the construction of agricultural stormwater management facilities and the retro-fitting of point-source pollution facilities.
4) Returning the water quantity control measures for one inch of rain to one-half inch.
A study done by The Silver Companies, a land development firm based in the
HBAR and its commercial and industrial development colleagues in the
It is clear that if this proposal becomes law, little or no affordable housing could be provided statewide and little or no infill development or revitalization of existing neighborhoods could be achieved. Urban sprawl would become normal residential development practice, commercial development would become so expensive that economic development opportunities for the state would significantly decrease, and a local government’s ability to build new facilities and provide more services – or even build a school – would be severely impaired. This proposal, if implemented as is, would do a disservice to the state of
HBAR formally requests that the Soil and Water Conservation Board reject this proposal in its entirety and begin again the process of creating new stormwater management requirements for
HBAR also asks DCR to undertake an audit of the current stormwater management program to determine if the regulations are being fully enforced. If it is determined that the current regulations are not being fully enforced, as speakers during the public hearing in Richmond suggested, we ask that DCR fully enforce the regulations before considering changes that can achieve the standards sought for protection of the watershed.
Thank you for allowing HBAR to submit its comments.
C. Warren Wakeland
Director of Government Affairs