COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

                                                                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Stormwater Master Planning and Program Development

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Work session on the stormwater master plan and options to develop the stormwater program

 

 

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Graham, Hirschman

 

AGENDA DATE:                     

April 7, 2004

 

ACTION:                                   INFORMATION:

 

CONSENT AGENDA:         

     ACTION:                              INFORMATION:    X

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:     Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

BACKGROUND:

In the past year, there has been much activity in the field of stormwater management, including:

·         Completion of a Stormwater Master Plan for the Development Areas, and

·         County coverage under a federally-mandated stormwater permit program for municipal storm sewer systems.

 

The Stormwater Master Plan is the product of previous work sessions with the Board during the Spring of 2000.  At that time, the Board directed staff pursue regional drainage area plans.  Prioritized watershed studies are also listed as a Strategy in Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 1999.  The stormwater permit program (NPDES Phase II) went into effect in 2003.  The program, in essence, considers discharges from a municipal storm sewer system to be regulated, similar to those from factories or wastewater plants.  Under this permit, the County must develop a stormwater management program that meets standards administered by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

 

We have arrived at a point in our program development where policy decisions must be made in terms of implementing the stormwater master plan and funding our growing stormwater demands for existing, mandatory, and expected programs.  The April 7, 2004 work session will focus on the Stormwater Master Plan, with subsequent work sessions aimed at establishing policy guidance for the stormwater program.  This executive summary outlines the Stormwater Master Plan, stormwater program elements, and steps for future decision-making, including program funding.

 

Stormwater Master Plan for Development Areas

The County’s Neighborhood Model for the Development Areas encourages in-fill development, which will create a relatively high intensity of impervious areas and increase in stormwater runoff.  This land use pattern provides a challenge to protect water resources. Streams within the Development Areas have already been impacted by existing and former land uses, and future development will also impact streams. Proactive stormwater planning can help mitigate these impacts and promote the restoration of water resources for their ecological, recreational, and cultural values.

By its nature, water resources management within the Development Areas requires trade offs: protecting some high-value stream corridors while acknowledging that others may be impacted by development, allowing the development designated in the Land Use Plan while protecting downstream property and natural resources, and seeking design solutions through the Neighborhood Model that turn water resources into neighborhood and environmental assets rather than liabilities. These trade offs are made with the understanding that higher-density development is being concentrated within the 35 square miles of the Development Areas in order to afford a much higher level of protection for streams within the remaining 692 square miles of the County’s rural areas. 

With this framework in mind, the objectives of the Stormwater Master Plan for the Development Areas are to (1) provide guidance for land use planning and neighborhood master planning that is based on the assessment and prioritization of water resources, (2) promote public and private stormwater solutions that are based on needs and opportunities at the watershed scale rather than relying solely on a site-by-site approach, and (3) recommend a financing strategy to implement the Stormwater Master Plan, a County-wide stormwater management program, and attendant programs under the County’s municipal storm sewer permit (VPDES Phase II).  The components of the Stormwater Master Plan include:

·         Stream assessment and prioritization,

·         Identification of regional stormwater control facilities to address existing and future development,

·         Identification of watershed projects that can be implemented concurrent with development, including repair of major stream erosion and restoration of stream buffer zones, and

·         A recommended stormwater financing plan.

 

Stormwater Program Elements

The County’s stormwater program is and will continue to be a fusion of programs that are: (1) existing and established efforts, (2) mandates from federal and/or state regulations, and (3) expected program elements based on Board direction and citizen expectations. 

 

·         Existing Programs include plan review for erosion control, stormwater management, and stream buffer protection, site inspections, inspections and maintenance for existing stormwater facilities, limited drainage repairs and improvements, flood plain management, and soil & water conservation district programs.

·         Mandated Programs include six minimum program elements specified in the County’s municipal storm sewer permit, administered by the Department of Environmental Quality.  Several important program elements are public education, outreach and involvement in water resources protection, elimination of unpermitted discharges to the storm system, and pollution prevention at municipal facilities.  Another required program may be the mapping and designation of perennial streams to remain compliant with new regulations associated with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (adopted as part of the County’s Water Protection Ordinance).

·         Expected Programs include expanding our stormwater maintenance obligations, responding to citizen complaints, construction of new regional facilities in the Development Areas, watershed restoration and sediment reduction programs, watershed monitoring and studies, and a greenway program associated with stream corridors.

 

Program Funding

The method by which the County funds the stormwater program depends on a deliberate policy decision: What “level of service” are we choosing to provide in terms of water protection?  Decisions about level of service must be made in the context of the existing, mandated, and expected program elements discussed above.  The activities and programs listed above represent, in the staff’s opinion, the minimum program elements necessary to meet mandatory commitments, the Comprehensive Plan, and community expectations.  Of course, a more vigorous program is possible depending on the availability of funding and other support.

 

Stormwater services range from those geared to protect property, public safety, and quality of life (e.g., flood control) to those that emphasize natural resources, water supplies, and the integrity of our natural systems (e.g., stream restoration, sediment reduction).  However, most of these services accomplish multiple objectives across all of these areas (for instance, stream buffers offer natural flood control while protecting the ecology of stream corridors).

 

Funding mechanisms evaluated in the Stormwater Master Plan include: pro-rata share fees, plan review fees, grants, the general fund, and a dedicated funding source known as a stormwater utility.  Stormwater utilities are enabled by State Code and can provide funding for a wide range of program elements based on an assessment of each property’s contribution to runoff.  In this regard, a stormwater utility establishes a service fee to fund required and expected stormwater services.  The concept of a stormwater service fee was previously discussed by the Board in March and April of 2000 (3/1/00 and 4/5/00 meeting dates).  For the current work session, we do not anticipate going into detail about a potential stormwater utility, although this topic will be discussed at length at subsequent work sessions.

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Goal 3.1: Make the County a Safe and Healthy Community in which citizens feel secure to live, work and play

 

Goal 2.2: Protect and/or preserve the County’s natural resources.

 

Goal 2.3: Provide for environmentally sensitive government operations at the local and regional level.

 

DISCUSSION:

Past Board information sessions and actions on this and related topics are summarized below:

 

·         March 1, 2000: The Board was presented with a list of options for the Stormwater Control Program.  The Board authorized the prioritization of CIP funds to complete “regional drainage area studies” (the Stormwater Master Plan), and requested further information on other topics.

·         April 5, 2000: Additional information was presented to the Board.  The Board authorized that all future subdivision and site drainage easements be dedicated to Public Use.  This decision means that the County’s “owned and operated” municipal storm sewer system, subject to state and federal regulations, is steadily increasing.  Since April, 2000, approximately 50 projects have dedicated easements to Public Use.  At this meeting, the Board also elected to keep stormwater program administration within the Department of Engineering rather than transferring it to the Albemarle County Service Authority.

·         February 6, 2002: The Board authorized the signing of a grant agreement with the Department of Conservation & Recreation.  The County was awarded a $100,000 grant through the Water Quality Improvement Fund to help fund the Stormwater Master Plan.

·         February 5, 2003: The Board authorized County staff to proceed with a “Registration Statement” so that the County could be covered under DEQ’s general permit for municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s).  This is a mandatory program under the Federal Clean Water Act.  The County’s permit coverage became effective on May 13, 2003.

·         February 4, 2004: The Board endorsed County staff’s involvement in the Rivanna Regional Stormwater Education Partnership, a collaborative effort with the Charlottesville, UVA, VDOT, RWSA, and TJSWCD to help comply with some of the program elements in the aforementioned storm system permit.

 

The Board’s cumulative decisions to date have provided guidance, program directions, and several necessary authorizations for mandatory programs.  At this point in time, we need to view the stormwater program as an integrated whole with program elements, defined levels of service, and an appropriate funding strategy to meet program needs.  The April 7, 2004 work session is envisioned to be one of several that can ultimately lead to the policy direction needed to establish a defined and stable program.  This work session will focus on the results and recommendations in the Stormwater Master Plan.  If the Board endorses the Plan (and recommends its adoption into the Comprehensive Plan), then subsequent work sessions will address specific funding mechanisms.

  

RECOMMENDATION:

This work session is for information purposes.  If the Board endorses the Stormwater Master Plan, subsequent work sessions will be scheduled to address funding options and recommendations for inclusion of the plan in the Comprehensive Plan.

 

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