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The new mandates will be costly, as the county figures out how to find the manpower and resources to achieve the federally required environmental changes.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
David Henderson has described his department as a lobster in a pot of water, prepped and ready to be cooked : “The water’s hot, but not boiling yet.”
That time will come soon enough for the Roanoke County engineer, whose department will manage an expensive wave of new storm water regulations set for implementation starting this year.
On Tuesday, Henderson and Tarek Moneir, the deputy director of development services, presented to the county board of supervisors a rough forecast of what comes next.
Two things are clear: There will be disagreements and it will cost money. A lot of money.
“I think this is something where there is going to be a lot of gnashing of teeth no matter how much time we have,” Henderson has said. “I want citizens to understand, this is a mandate coming from Richmond and Washington.”
That mandate lays out a slew of new compliances for Roanoke Valley localities. Perhaps the most stringent is to begin focusing on wide swaths of land that has already been developed.
Until now, Roanoke County engineers have been mostly reactive, responding to storm water problems as they surface and setting standards for new developments.
Some states have tackled storm water compliance aggressively, including finding ways to fund the changes. In Maryland, the state general assembly required localities with applicable permits to form a storm water utility, with use-based fees for residents .
Ginny Snead, a state storm water regulatory program manager, has described Virginia as a middle-of-the-road state : not the most aggressive or relaxed.
To put the burden of the new permit cycle into perspective, Henderson suggested scanning the landscape from the lookout atop Mill Mountain. That’s the next challenge, he said: finding the manpower and resources to monitor and implement the federally required environmental changes to the cityscape.
Then, of course, there’s the question of how to pay for it.
Supervisor Butch Church asked Moneir directly.
“Give me an in-the-Earth’s-atmosphere estimate,” he said.
“In the capital budget, we have been putting in a little bit over $800,000 to be put toward that program,” Moneir replied. “That’s not enough. We’ll need at least double that amount by 2015.”
“I was told I need to consider buying a lottery ticket,” he said in an attempt to lighten the mood. “If I knew the future, I would share it.”
The total cost of the storm water project was described as amorphous, a number subject to change as regulations unfold and localities better understand the challenges before them.
Supervisor Mike Altizer shook his head.
“Let me tell you, Roanoke County is going to be lucky if it’s less than $5 million,” he said. “Just go up here and look at the things that we’re going to start doing — and we’re a minimum staff and we’ve cut positions .”
And if localities can’t or won’t comply, the state and federal government has ways to enforce, including through fines.
In coming months, the supervisors will select members of the public — possibly 25 — to serve on a committee whose goal will be to suggest to the supervisors how to best approach the compliance issue. Moneir suggested the board include stakeholders, environmentalists, business owners, developers, leaders of homeowners associations and others.
Roanoke County Administrator Clay Goodman concurred.
“At the end of the day, the board of supervisors of Roanoke County are going to have to act, by law,” he said. “So you’re going to need the involvement of the citizens that you feel comfortable with.”
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