Harrisonburg Adopts Stormwater Revisions

Stricter Standards Aim To Help Reduce Runoff

Posted: April 26, 2014

Work gets under way on a new sewer system at Freeman Station on Pear Street in Harrisonburg. City Council, to meet new state mandates, gave its OK this week to a new stormwater ordinance regulating some developments. As part of the change, the city will take over certain duties previously conducted by the state. (Photo by Nikki Fox)

HARRISONBURG — City Council approved a new stormwater ordinance and permitting program for developments this week to meeting requirements set by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The plan is due May 15 and regulations kick in July 1. They cover new development and redevelopment of projects greater than an acre.

Harrisonburg, like many localities around Virginia, will absorb certain duties previously conducted by DEQ, including more involvement in site-plan review, construction inspection, permit enforcement and fee collection.

Through stricter design standards to reduce water runoff, costs for development and redevelopment are expected to go up, city engineer Dan Rublee said.

However, he said there’s been a “real apathy” for the changes, noting that nobody spoke out at a public hearing this week.

“It could just be a sign of the economy. They’re not doing enough to worry about it,” Rublee said of builders.

That may be a good sign for city government because if development increases, additional staffing may be needed to handle permits, he told council earlier this year. The current workforce is “adequate,” he said, though preliminary in-house projections show that the city may face a “little bit of a shortfall” by assuming more enforcement and administrative responsibilities.

The lack of public comments on the changes doesn’t mean feelings of disgust with the state’s recommendations are absent.

“My biggest gripe, the fees are ridiculous,” said Scott Sellers, a civil engineer from Engineering Solutions in Harrisonburg. “It’s one of those unfunded mandates. …   It’s just a tax. That’s all it is.

For projects smaller than 5 acres, for example, stormwater management permit fees will go from $475 to $2,700, he said.

Overall, though, Sellers sees potential for improved flood-control measures within developments.

“I hate it, but it’s just because I’ve got to change,” he said of using a different spreadsheet.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com



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