Groundwater Ordinance Work Session




Work session to consider the proposed groundwater ordinance and standards




Tucker, Foley, Kamptner, Graham, Hirschman






July 7, 2004


ACTION:     X                        INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                            INFORMATION:   











As the Board is aware, staff and the Planning Commission have been working with the Groundwater Committee over the past few years on the development of a groundwater ordinance and assessment standards.  The current proposal has a long history, including:


         Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan (1999) explicitly listed Groundwater testing standards and the formation of a groundwater committee as strategies.


         The Groundwater committee was formed in the fall of 2000 based on authorizations from both the Board and Planning Commission.  The Committee produced its interim report, Underground Albemarle, on October 2001.


         The Planning Commission held five work sessions throughout the process of developing the ordinance and standards.


         The Board of Supervisors held three work sessions and adopted resolutions of intent to amend the appropriate ordinances to adopt the groundwater program on September 3, 2003.


         A public Roundtable meeting was held on February 3, 2004 and a public comment period ensued.  The groundwater committee subsequently met to recommend changes to the ordinance and standards based on public comment, and these changes were incorporated into the current version of the program.


         The groundwater program requires amendments to the Water Protection, Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances.  On June 1, 2004, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on the zoning text amendment and recommended its approval.  In conjunction with the public hearing, the Commission also reviewed the proposed groundwater assessment regulations that will be added to the Water Protection Ordinance and recommended approval of those regulations.  However, the Commission recommended that the County-operated monitoring well network, that is an integral part of the proposed groundwater program, be funded from the general fund rather than through application fees (see Discussion section below).   The Commission has not yet considered the subdivision text amendment. 


Attachments A and B are included for the Boardís information and review.  Attachment A is a one-page summary of the proposed four-tier groundwater assessment standards for building permits, subdivision plats, and site plans.  The attachment also outlines the proposed County-operated monitoring well network.  Attachment B is a comprehensive packet of information on the proposed program, including the ordinance amendments, standards, groundwater committee history, and information on the Roundtable process. 




Goal 2.2.  Protect and/or preserve the Countyís natural resources.



At the Boardís July 7 work session, staff would like the Board to: (1) review and discuss the proposed amendments to Water Protection, Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances (Attachment B - Page 1-10) and (2) provide guidance to staff regarding the Planning Commissionís specific recommendation to fund the County-operated monitoring network with general fund revenues rather than application fees.


The County-operated  monitoring well network has always been an important part of the proposed groundwater program, as recommended by the groundwater committee.  At present, very little information is available on the Countyís groundwater levels, and the monitoring well program will help bridge this gap over time.  The monitoring wells will also be tied to public outreach efforts (such as an alert system during droughts).  For more information on the monitoring well network, see Section 7.0 of the Groundwater Committeeís standards (page 21 of Attachment B).


As part of the Boardís September 3, 2003 resolutions, it was stated that the program brought before the Board would incorporate fees to recover 100% of program costs.  Staff expects that the proposed groundwater application fees (outlined in Attachment A) would recover 100% of the costs to fund the Groundwater Program Manager position, approved in the FY í04 budget. . This position has an initial cost of $117,695 budgeted for FY'04 and anticipates an ongoing annual cost of $73,845, without an inflation adjustment.   


However, the Planning Commission recommends that the program costs for the monitoring well network portion of the program not be funded by fees, and instead be funded through general fund revenues since all citizens will benefit from the monitoring well network.  The Commission expressed that it would be more equitable to fund the monitoring well network through general revenues instead of allocating this cost to a narrow group of new permit applicants. 


Staff recommends that the County begin the monitoring well program by drilling two wells per year at an estimated cost of $8,000 per well, or approximately $16,000 per year. This cost includes drilling and monitoring equipment, but does not include site acquisition.  Staff anticipates and hopes that the necessary property interests and easements for the well sites and access thereto will be voluntarily dedicated or otherwise conveyed voluntarily at no cost to the County.


After this work session and if the Board so directs, the Planning Commission will hold public hearings on the zoning and subdivision text amendments.  The Commission must re-hear the zoning text amendment because it has been revised since the Commissionís June 1, 2004 hearing to add a fees provision.  After the Commission makes its recommendations on the zoning and subdivision text amendments, the Board may schedule a public hearing to amend the Water Protection Ordinance to add the proposed groundwater assessment regulations.




Staff recommends that (1) the Board consider the proposed ordinance amendments as recommended by the Planning Commission and advise staff of any changes the Board would like staff to include for consideration at the Planning Commissionís upcoming public hearing and (2) the Board approve the creation of a County-operated monitoring well network and consider the fee structure recommended by the Planning Commission, and advise staff as to whether the Board has a different preference regarding program cost recovery.




ATTACHMENT A: Summary of Four-Tier Approach for Building Permits, Plats, and Plans & Long-Term Monitoring Wells


 ATTACHMENT B: Board of Supervisors Groundwater Information Packet


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