I recently attended a public hearing of the Lake Shenandoah Stormwater Control Authority regarding the proposed “fee” structure that will be used to charge only certain residents of Rockingham County. During the meeting, upwards of a dozen citizens spoke to their concerns about the stormwater issues facing this section of the county. Some residents provided a history of their previously stated concerns regarding the adequacy of the regulations and the board’s previous allowance of overdevelopment that remains unchecked in this area. Before the time allotted for public comments and questions, a presentation was made by a staff member showing photos of water damage to homes and flood damage to properties, along with pictures documenting the rain event that rendered roads impassable. The general tone of the meeting was cordial with everyone in agreement that something needs to be done to help alleviate the problem.

During my allotted time, I relayed a conversation that I had about 20 years ago with Mr. Hensley, my neighbor, who helped install the dam at Lake Shenandoah nearly 70 years ago with a team of mules and a roller. Mr. Hensley would be proud to know that his dam held back the floodwaters of the 2018 rain event in Rockingham County. His commonsense approach and attention to detail, while placing the controlled fill dirt during the construction of the dam, saved numerous problems for the many residents downstream. It is unfortunate that those responsible for “controlled” development in the county did not use the same good judgment that Mr. Hensley and his co-workers used to build the dam.

During the meeting, I noticed a number of times when the supervisors became confused as to which board they were serving. Were they acting as the Board of Supervisors of Rockingham County or were they acting as the Board of the Lake Shenandoah Stormwater Control Authority? Whatever the case, they are clearly responding to a hot spot caused by uncontrolled development. They are putting their collective fingers in the leak of their dam. What happens when other leaks spring open in their dam somewhere else in the county? Will they simply set up another stormwater authority in the Bridgewater area or possibly in the Broadway area? Just how many stormwater authorities can we have at one time? How confusing will this get for these supervisors? What stormwater hat will they wear and when? This is an unsustainable approach to a problem.

Overdevelopment is a countywide problem. It is only a matter of time when another strip mall with its paved parking lot will dump more stormwater onto an adjacent county road and then into a swollen stream that dumps that water into someone’s basement. When developers leave a mess for taxpayers to clean up, we look to our elected representatives to provide a solution that is countywide. Let’s save our supervisors the confusion of which board they are serving on at any given time. After all, aren’t they elected as the supervisors of the whole of Rockingham County?

William Fisher lives in Rockingham.

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