Management programs must be crafted under new state requirements
By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK - Shenandoah County will take the lead for the region as localities draw plans to manage stormwater runoff.
Localities must craft stormwater management programs under new state requirements. In order to do that, localities need to know the cost involved, including staffing needs, according to County Planner Patrick Felling. But the county recently received some help to do that thanks to the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission. The agency also has picked the county to serve as the prototype for the rest of the area covered by the Front Royal-based commission.
Felling reported on the progress of the work at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. The commission applied for a grant and received $84,000 from the Department of Conservation and Recreation to help study the issues for the region. Felling said by email later on Tuesday that parties learned of the grant award on Thursday.
Felling noted that among the region's localities, Shenandoah County was selected to receive "a very intensive assessment of what it would cost to sustainably finance a stormwater program."
Felling lauded efforts by Zoning Subdivision Administrator Joyce Fadeley, who lobbied the commission to choose Shenandoah County for the intensive study over the next 11 months.
"Overall we believe that in July of 2014 that this new stormwater program should be in place," Felling said, adding that they will have a better idea of what it will cost and how they will pay for it.
The Department of Conservation and Recreation has set the fees that all counties must collect, how much the state agency receives and what the locality keeps, Felling explained.
"I think because it's a statewide program there are some counties ... it will cost them more to run the program," Felling said.
He said that since the study has not been done for Shenandoah County he does not what the impact will be, "...but I do know there was definitely concern that the state had set the amount that the counties would get from the fee to be low."
Any applicant who plans to develop one or more acres of land would pay the fees associated with stormwater management, Felling said. The program is to ensure that over the long term any rain that falls on the property is channeled in a way that prevents erosion or does not cause flooding.
Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli asked if the work was at a stage in the process where the county could have a say in the fees imposed. Felling noted the fees have been set. Community Development Director Brandon Davis told the board his department was involved in the development of the fees in an effort to keep the charges "as fair as possible."
Fadeley and Budget Manager Garland Miller devised a fiscal model to determine the cost to implement and run the program as well as the fees required to cover the expense, Davis said. The county submitted that information to the state.
"This is not a minor thing," said Supervisor David Ferguson. "This is a major thing as far as adding cost to any development in Shenandoah County because where it was one time a homeowner could go out and disturb an acre of ground to build a house or do something and not fall under these regulations."
Ferguson warned the new regulations would add the expense to a developer of having to determine how to comply with stormwater management.
Felling explained that the state already requires stormwater runoff management for development. The state has tightened these regulations, causing costs to developers to rise, he added.
"Really what is happening is the state is pushing the program down to the county level," Felling said.
State statute requires the county and others to begin operating its own stormwater management program by July 1, 2014, according to Felling. The new program also requires counties to create stormwater ordinance and make significant changes to existing local regulations. Staffing and procedures must be established before the deadline, Felling explained.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org