Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Conservation and Recreation
Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board
Stormwater Management Regulations 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 Ended on 8/21/2009
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8/21/09  9:26 am
Commenter: Concerned commercial development companies

VOTE NO -- regulations will harm commercial development, economic development in Virginia

As commercial building and development industry professionals who do business across the Commonwealth, we feel the need to express our deep concern about the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s (DCR) proposed stormwater management regulations and how they will affect commercial and residential development, economic development and government services in Virginia. We thank you for taking the time to consider our views.

We understand the philosophy behind these regulations. A less polluted Chesapeake Bay Watershed benefits everyone, and its poor water quality has gotten to a point where action must be taken. However, our hundreds of years of combined experience in all forms of development tells us this proposal will increase commercial construction and leasing costs to unworkable levels and harm economic development and urban revitalization efforts while generating comparatively little nutrient pollution cleanup and providing minimal environmental benefit to the watershed and the Bay.
The technical regulations cause us deep concern in several areas.
1)      According to researchers from the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, which was hired by DCR last fall to study the proposal, the 0.28 pounds per acre per year figure for phosphorus mitigation is not based on reliable science. The figure is calculated using a math equation based on the Virginia Tributary Strategies. The figures used to make those calculations include runoff from mining activities; therefore, the 0.28 figure is scientifically flawed, which should make it unacceptable for use.
2)      The proposal does not appear to regulate any aspect other than residential and commercial development. DCR’s own research, completed after the agribusiness community voluntarily enacted reforms to try to reduce its nutrient pollution runoff, shows agricultural sources create almost three times the sediment runoff, more than twice the nitrogen runoff and almost 50 percent more phosphorus runoff than commercial and residential development. If the proposal only regulates development it barely touches the problem and, therefore, does little to actually clean up the watershed and the Bay.
3)      The 0.28 figure represents a 38 percent decrease in phosphorus runoff for commercial development from the current 0.45 mitigation level. Some of the state’s best engineers have determined that an ordinary office building currently built on 10 acres would need to be built on almost 18 acres in order to provide the natural land nutrient filtration necessary to reach a 0.28 level of phosphorus mitigation. The land costs associated with the extra acreage, in most cases, would make the project too costly to build. Companies looking to locate in Virginia will see significantly higher construction and lease costs than elsewhere. These higher costsversus competing stateswill cause Virginia’s economic development efforts to wane, hurting corporate recruitment that create jobs and sustains local tax bases in urban areas and killing jobs brought by industrial and manufacturing plants in rural areas.
4)      The increase from 10 to 20 percent in the nutrient runoff reduction requirement from predevelopment loads on redevelopment projects would make it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to rehabilitate existing urban retail and commercial areas. The amount of additional land needed to reduce runoff levels to the required standard would not be readily available unless areas around the site are purchased and added to the project, with any structures on those sites being destroyed. The additional land cost and subsequent development work needed to utilize the land for stormwater management drives up the cost of the project as a whole, in many cases making the project cost-ineffective.
5)      Local governments seeking to provide needed infrastructure through their Capital Improvement Plans (CIP)will have great difficulty affording CIP projects such as schools, roads or new government facilities. The current proposal will add land to the amount needed to build any new facilities, and cash-strapped local governments simply do not have the money to afford the extra land costs.
6)      The regulations call any area where woods are turned into open space or recreation space “managed turf.” These areas will not be overly used but will require more BMPs just to manage them, further increasing development costs. A commercial developer looking to provide a walking or outdoor relaxation area in an office park will reconsider because of the extra BMPs they will have to provide just for that space.
7)      We have been told by people who sat on the Soil and Water Conservation Board’s (SWCB) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that helped develop this proposal that there was never a consensus reached on the viability of this proposal. In fact, more TAC members disagreed with moving forward than agreed. This troubles us greatly, as this makes it appear politics is playing a role in pushing these regulations through the governmental process. 
We all want to see the Chesapeake Bay restored to its beauty of old, but many factors besides environmental protection must be considered to make this happen. The Commonwealth cannot make development the sole villain. These new rules cannot be so onerous and costly that business no longer views Virginia as an excellent destination. The Commonwealth cannot take away the ability of local governments to provide more when its citizens need more. The Commonwealth cannot make it financially impractical to restore and revitalize urban and blighted areas for the benefit of a community. This proposal does all four.
We respectfully request that you ask DCR to not move forward with Part II of 4 VAC 50-60 – the technical requirements of the proposed stormwater management regulations. We also ask that the SWCB reconvene the TAC to further review the technical requirements with an eye on considering economic development needs, local and state government needs and urban and rural revitalization needs along with environmental protection, for the benefit of all Virginians.
Thank you for hearing our concerns, and for your service to the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Kevin T. McFadden, Managing General Partner, The Rebkee Co.

Alan Nusbaum, Chairman of the Board, S. L. Nusbaum Realty Co.

Mark H. Slusher, Vice President, TGM Realty Investors, Inc.

Willis P. Blackwood, Principal, Blackwood Development Co.

Robert J. "Robin" Miller, Jr., President, Miller & Associates

Daniel T. Schmitt, Vice President, H. H. Hunt Properties

H. Leon Shadowen, Jr., Vice President - Development, Brandywine Realty Trust

Russell T. Aaronson, President, Gray Land & Development Co.

Alan T. Lingerfelt, President, The Lingerfelt Companies

CommentID: 9834