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Isle of Wight considers easing stormwater regulations

ISLE OF WIGHT
Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors is considering legislation that would relax stormwater management requirements for single-family housing developments on less than one acre of land.

The proposed legislation would come as a series of changes to the county’s municipal code sections governing stormwater. The board discussed the matter during a work session held on Thursday at 3 p.m.

Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson explained that, should the Board of Supervisors approve the change, lots outside of a common plan of development (a subdivision) that disturb less than an acre would no longer be required to construct stormwater facilities to manage runoff.

According to Don Jennings, the county’s director of utility services, additional changes to the language of the county’s code would remove references to illicit discharge and use the term “stormwater assets” instead of “stormwater system” to make it better align with the fact that the county no longer has or needs an MS4 (municipal separate storm sewer system) permit. Jennings said the changes would have the effect of no longer requiring some homeowners in rural areas of the county to put in stormwater ponds or obtain conservation easements when building their homes, potentially eliminating several thousand dollars from construction costs.

He estimates that between five to 10 percent of homes in the county would be affected by the change.

“Right now, a majority of [permit applications] we’re processing are within subdivisions, so stormwater has already been accounted for within the infrastructure,” Jennings said.

The board also discussed the possibility of offering some type of credit to homeowners who built their homes during the time when the county’s MS4 permit was in effect and spent extra money to put in stormwater ponds or drainage ditches, which today would not be required.

Robertson added that, regardless of whether or not the board ultimately adopts the changes, the county’s erosion and sediment control ordinances and Chesapeake Bay ordinances would remain in effect.

Another matter the board discussed was if and when to require homeowners to connect to a county water main were one to become available to a particular street or development. Robertson said that the county code’s current verbiage goes back to 2005 and was adopted with the intent of making connections mandatory when available. However, neither the ordinance nor the notifications sent to residents informing them of water availability made it expressly clear that doing so was mandatory.

The reason the board is looking into the issue once again is because the county expects to complete work on a water line spanning Route 10 in approximately a year and a half, and would need to again send out notifications to residents along that corridor when water becomes available.

But before the county could enforce any water connection requirement, the county code would need to define a distance between a house and the water main where connecting would be mandatory, Jennings explained.

Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice suggested that county residents with wells in good standing could save on costs by complying with the connection requirement and paying the tap installation fee, but not consuming from the new line, thereby avoiding a water bill. He also suggested that the county offer some type of incentive for those inclined to go with this option to reconsider and begin consuming county water, as the county’s water fund currently does not have enough customers to sustain itself.

Another suggestion he made was to delay any connection requirements until the deed to a property changes hands, but Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said that having a well and not needing to pay a water bill might be an incentive for someone to buy a property in Isle of Wight.

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said that the county also needs to consider residents who are on a fixed income and cannot afford the county’s connection fee or to start paying a water bill. He added that a mandatory connection might be less burdensome if the county was able to offer sewer service as well, so those switching from wells would not need to replace their aging septic tanks.