|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|
Dear Mr. Maroon:
These days I am the developer and owner of two business parks in Fairfax and Prince William Counties. I am writing to you to express my concern about the proposed storm water regulations as they apply to the development of commercial business parks.
Back when we were on the Non-Tidal Wetlands panel, we heard testimony that by far, the greatest source of nutrients flowing into the Chesapeake Bay was from agricultural uses. I believe that today the often quoted share of nutrients for agriculture is over 80%. I distinctly recall that Dr. Shabman from VPI recommended a remedy which would abate agricultural run-off. He proposed that the State acquire conservation easements in the floodplains of the Commonwealth’s rivers and tributaries. The easements would restrict agricultural uses and encourage their reforestation with hardwood and soft wood timber. At the time, he suggested that the cost to the State would be about $20,000,000 to acquire a significant portion of the floodplains in Virginia. The advantage to the farmers was that at a time of low crop prices, the conservation easement plan would provide welcome cash and offer them the opportunity to balance their crop planning with timber which could be harvested perhaps every 25 – 30 years for soft woods and longer for hardwoods. Furthermore, it would be practical to cut much of the timber on a “selective harvest”. A secondary benefit to agriculture is that the easements would greatly enhance wildlife habitat which, in turn, would offer farmers the potential to earn cash from leasing their land for hunting, especially for deer and turkeys.
Clearly today, the cost of such a program would be far greater than $20,000,000. However, based on the advice that my engineers are giving me, if the cost were to be say, $100,000,000, it would still be far less than the cost of future compliance with the proposed storm water regulations. Furthermore, it would provide greater reduction in the nutrients flowing into Virginia waters.
My objection to Part II of the proposed regulations is based on the following arguments.
1.) The relative benefit to water quality achieved by these proposed regulations is way out of balance with the costs and regulatory burden on the real estate industry and the regulators. I have read that the Department of Planning and Budget has determined that the cost of mitigation versus the benefits realized has been determined to be “significant”.
2.) My engineers have advised me that the Technical Advisory Committee, (TAC), was not permitted to address their concerns with the technical requirements of the proposed regulations. If so, why did the Commonwealth have a TAC at all? This is probably why six of the nine TAC members who spoke asked you to hold off on Part II. There is hardly consensus on this issue.
3.) The commercial development business today is really on the ropes financially. In May 2008, we were able to acquire permanent financing for 250,000 sq. ft. of R&D Flex buildings at 5.60 % for a 15 year loan. Today, we would feel fortunate to place that loan at 7.5 - 7.75%. Furthermore, we would have to have more cash equity invested to get such a loan. If we were to start a new project this year, we would have to raise our base shell rates by 25%, from $11.50 per sq. ft. to $14.50. This is only if we are able to build at the same cost as two years ago. To further burden the real estate industry with much higher costs for storm water installations is kind of like tossing bricks to a drowning man.
4.) My business parks provide the locations for businesses that employ over 2,000 people. We plan to nearly double in size over the next real estate cycle. We facilitate the creation of real jobs for well educated Virginians and we pay over $1,000,000 a year in local property taxes as a landlord.
5.) Finally, I am a fisherman. I really appreciate the benefits of cleaning up our rivers and streams. However, I am constantly amazed at how poorly many of the farms along the Shenandoah and Rappahannock are managed for their livestock and tilling. In 1987, our farm in Fairfax County was recognized as a Clean Water Farm by Governor Baliles, so I know how little investment it requires to improve and manage agricultural runoff. When I look at how much it costs for the proposed storm water regulations in comparison to the tiny improvement in urban runoff, I can’t help but feel that it is a gross misapplication of regulatory energy and authority.
This is why I strongly urge you to not approve Part II of the proposed storm water regulations.
I-95 Business Parks Management LLC
Edwin W. Lynch, Manager