Agencies | Governor
Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Agency
Department of Conservation and Recreation
 
Board
Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board
 
chapter
Stormwater Management Regulations RENUMBERED AS 9 VAC 25-870 [4 VAC 50 ‑ 60]
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.
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ends 8/21/2009
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8/12/09  2:14 pm
Commenter: Sarah

Please Say NO!
 

 

 

 

To Whom It May Concern:

 

I appreciate the opportunity to offer my comments concerning the proposed stormwater management regulations offered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

 

I am a firm believer in protecting the Chesapeak Bay Watershed.  I have lived in it my entire life and have worked with the Save the Bay Foundation.  However, I do not believe that you can hold one industry accountable for the entire watershed.   There are many sources of pollutants in the watershed not caused by new development.  (I could name a few if necessary). We each of us are stewards of this earth but to put the burden on one industry when we are each responsible is socialism at its worst.

 

The DCR proposal causes great concern for me as a resident. The proposed regulations, if approved, will do extensive damage to Virginia’s open space environment and the state’s ability to achieve reasonable business growth. While causing these problems, the proposal will not come close to achieving the goals established for nutrient runoff mitigation.

 

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, UDAs most likely cannot be utilized.

5)      New affordable housing, which at this time almost does not exist in the Richmond area, would be harmed even further. Lot sizes would be too large to allow reasonably-priced housing. The lack of affordable housing would drive jobs out of the state and do untold damage to economic development efforts, especially in the state’s rural areas. Organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Virginia Housing and Development Agency and HOME would suffer heavily under the proposed regulations.

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. Virginia residents will also likely pay for the higher costs associated with local stormwater program requirements.” In our current economy this high-cost proposal, using any cost estimate, is not prudent for the state or its residents.

7)      The proposal is a statewide, “one-size-fits-all” proposal. The same regulations would apply for Henry County, which lies outside the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, as for Chesterfield County, which lies inside the watershed. This proposal has been developed specifically to help clean-up and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Why, then, are counties that do not lie in the watershed and provide no runoff into the watershed a part of this proposal? The proposal should include only counties within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The DPB economic impact analysis suggests this as well.

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. I understand and appreciate 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 Washington, D.C. area, shows the HBAV proposal will reduce the total phosphorus load running into the Bay from the current level of 7.9 million pounds to the state’s goal of 6 million pounds by 2033. The Silver study shows DCR’s proposal will only reduce phosphorus runoff by 100,000 pounds by 2033 and take 75-100 years to meet the 1.9-million-pound reduction goal, while costing more than $2 billion to achieve. HBAV’s proposal would also add $170 million per year to the WQIF, which received only $20 million from the state in FY 2009 and is budgeted to receive nothing in FY 2010. In fact, the WQIF has received only $102.9 million in state funding since FY 2002, most of which has gone to agricultural BMPs. The Virginia Tech study recommends a fee-in-lieu program similar to HBAV’s proposed WQIF fee program.

 

I strongly support all realistic, scientifically-quantifiable efforts at repairing the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But the environment cannot be the sole determining factor in how to proceed, as it is in this proposal. Economic development, affordable housing, reasonable land use and program costs for business, government and Virginians must be factored into the equation as well. If we clean up the Bay but cut off economic development, increase costs for all Virginians during the worst economy in 70 years and trigger massive urban sprawl at the same time, we do a disservice to the state and to future generations wishing to call Virginia home.

 

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 Virginia and its future. This certainly cannot be one of the goals of this policy.

 

I formally request 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 Virginia that treats protection of the environment, expansion of residential and commercial development and enhancement of economic development opportunities equally. I ask that the Technical Advisory Committee be reconvened and asked to come to consensus on the new set of regulations. The HBAV proposal should receive a full hearing by the TAC.

 

I also ask 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, I 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 me to submit its comments.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Sarah

Concerned Citizen

CommentID: 9521