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.

 

COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

                                                                    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Stormwater Master Planning, Financing Options

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Work session on options for funding the stormwater program as a follow-up to the April 7, 2004 work session

 

 

 

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Graham, Hirschman

 

AGENDA DATE:                      

May 5, 2004

 

ACTION:                                   INFORMATION:

 

 

CONSENT AGENDA:         

     ACTION:                              INFORMATION:    X

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:     Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

BACKGROUND:

Wednesday’s scheduled work session is a follow-up to the April 7, 2004 work session with the Board on the Stormwater Master Plan and will focus on stormwater funding options.  The County’s consultant, CH2M Hill, has produced a report on this topic that outlines several funding scenarios available to the County and will review these options with the Board at the meeting.  The degree to which various funding alternatives are utilized will depend on the “level of service” the County decides to provide to address stormwater management needs (see the April 7 executive summary for a more detailed discussion of the various stormwater program elements).

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

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.

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

Goal: 3.3 Develop and implement policies that address the County's growth and urbanization while continuing to enhance the factors that contribute to the quality of life in the County.

 

DISCUSSION:

Funding mechanisms evaluated in the Stormwater Master Plan include: pro-rata share fees, plan review fees, grants, the use of general fund revenues, and the establishment of 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.  Utility fees would be based on an assessment of each property’s contribution to runoff.  In this regard, a stormwater utility can be used to establish a service fee to fund the desired level of stormwater services. 

 

CH2M HILL worked with County staff to identify various levels of service based on the existing, mandated, and expected programs and presented this information to the Board at its April 7 meeting. After Board review of potential funding alternatives, staff will present options to the Board at its day meeting in June for proceeding with the establishment of a clearly defined stormwater program.  This will involve a decision by the Board regarding the funding alternatives the Board supports in achieving the desired level of service.  Due to new mandates and existing services, additional funds will be required beyond the current general fund allocation.

 

RECOMMENDATION:

The purpose of the work session is to review potential funding alternatives with the Board and to receive input regarding the scope of the County’s future program.  Based on this input, staff will prepare alternatives for the Board’s consideration at it final work session planned for June.

COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Stormwater Financing Work Session

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Consider various options for financing the stormwater program at different levels of service

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Tucker, Foley, Davis, Kamptner, Graham, Hirschman

 

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

AGENDA DATE:

July 14, 2004

 

ACTION:     X                        INFORMATION:   

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:                              INFORMATION 

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   No

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:

The Board held work sessions on April 7, 2004 and May 5, 2004 concerning the Stormwater Master Plan and funding options for the stormwater program.  Two important concepts from these work sessions were:

1.  The stormwater program consists of existing programs (e.g., plan review, inspections, and maintenance), newly mandated programs (e.g., storm sewer permit), and expected programs (e.g., responding to citizen complaints, new regional facilities).

2.  Current decision-making about the stormwater program involves deciding on a level of service for stormwater management. For instance, how frequently should the County inspect stormwater facilities and conduct preventative maintenance?  How responsive should the County be to citizen complaints?

 

The executive summaries from April 7 and May 5 provide more details on the master plan, funding options, and level of service issues.

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

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.

Goal 3.3: Develop and implement policies that address the County’s growth and urbanization while continuing to enhance the factors that contribute to the quality of life in the County.

 

DISCUSSION:

Based on feedback from the Board at the previous work sessions, staff has outlined a “baseline” program as well as two additional options for expanded levels of service.  This report also contains an analysis of funding alternatives and important issues to be considered for each alternative.

 

Baseline Level of Service: Existing & Newly Mandated Programs

This “base” level of service includes programs that the County currently maintains plus new mandates that the County must comply with.  The base program has the following level of service characteristics:

•  The County would continue to review erosion control and stormwater plans for development and provide site inspections based on current staffing.

•  Staff would strive for scheduled inspections for all public and private stormwater facilities on an annual basis, but limited resources will likely result in inspections largely being driven by complaints or known problems. 

•  Routine maintenance would be performed on County-owned facilities.  Funding for repairs and new facilities would be based on availability of funds in the CIP.

•  Citizen complaints would be handled on a case-by-case basis based on the availability of staff.  Some complaints would receive an initial site visit, but adequate resources may not be available to address the problem.

•  Some problems that are left unattended due to a skeleton inspection and maintenance program will not be addressed until they become a more serious problem, which may result in more costly drainage system repairs in the future.

•  Staff would put the main emphasis on compliance with mandated programs.  In most cases, we would identify and pursue the minimum actions necessary to achieve compliance, perhaps through contract with others.

 

Funding Considerations for the Baseline Program

The current funding level for the stormwater program is approximately $750,000 (approximately $500,000 for administrative expenses and $250,000 in the CIP).  Some revenues are brought in through plan review fees ($140,000) and pro-rata share contributions to reimburse for past expenditures (this amount is variable on an annual basis based on the amount of development that occurs within particular drainage basins).  An increase in funding would be needed to fund the newly mandated programs.  The annual cost increase would likely range from $100,000 to $240,000.

 

Option A: Base Program Plus Expanded Customer Service in Development Areas Focusing on Stormwater/ Drainage Services

Option A would provide services for existing and mandated programs as well as most expected programs, with a strong focus of providing “urban-type” services to the Development Areas with regard to inspecting, maintaining, and improving the drainage system.  Level of service characteristics would be as follows:

•  The County would provide the plan review and inspection services listed above for the base program.  Inspections of stormwater facilities would be conducted at least annually within the Development Areas.

•  The County would fund projects listed in the Stormwater Master Plan, including construction of regional facilities in the Development Areas, drainage repairs, and stream restorations at a rate of two to three projects per year in the Development Areas.

•  Additional staff and resources would be available to focus more attention on citizen complaints and follow-up to address problems in the drainage system in the Development Areas.

•  Staff would comply with our storm sewer permit mandates in accordance with the approved 5-year plan, and move beyond minimum compliance where opportunities arise to make the program more effective.  One such opportunity would be to enhance our regional partnership for public education and outreach on stormwater issues.

 

Funding Consideration for Option A

Total program costs would be approximately $1.2 million in Year 2 of the program and $1.5 million in Year 5 (based on the assumption of taking on more projects through time), or $450,000 to $750,000 above current funding.  Funding for projects and programs outside the Development Areas would be in addition to these figures, and would be funded on a case-by-case basis at the Board’s discretion using general fund or capital revenues. 

 

Based on our consultant’s analysis, the Development Area program could be funded by a stormwater utility with a rate of $24/year/ERU (equivalent residential unit = 2,000 square feet of impervious cover) in combination with plan review fees and pro-rata share contributions.  This fee includes offsetting the current General Fund cost of stormwater management.  Alternately, revenues for the program could be generated from the General Fund through a dedicated stormwater service district at a rate of approximately $0.01/$100 of assessed value (see discussion below).  The chief difference between the stormwater utility and the service district is that the utility assesses fees based on relative impacts to stormwater (using impervious cover as the measure) while the district would use property values.  The last section of this report contains a fuller treatment of these funding options.

 

Option B: Base Program Plus Expanded Customer Service County-wide for Stormwater/Drainage Services AND Natural Resources Protection

Option B would provide services for existing and mandated programs as well as most expected programs, with a County-wide approach.  This County-wide coverage would allow the program to address “urban-type” services noted with Option A in addition to natural resources protection programs, such as sediment reduction, stream protection, and an expanded easement program.  Level of service characteristics would be as follows:

•  The services described under Option B would be pursued.  Maintenance inspections would be conducted at least annually throughout the County.

•  Projects in the Stormwater Master Plan as well as Rural Area projects would be funded at a rate of three to five per year.  Rural Area projects may include stream habitat, sediment reduction, and riparian restoration efforts, as well as public education on water resources protection.

•  Citizen complaint response and drainage repairs would have more of a County-wide focus.

•  Stream assessment and watershed studies could be extended beyond the Development Areas.

 

Funding Consideration for Option B

Total program costs would be approximately $1.5 million in Year 2 of the program and $2 million in Year 5, or $750,000 to $1.25 million above current funding. 

 

The County-wide program could be funded by a stormwater utility with a rate of $18 to $19/year/ERU in combination with plan review fees and pro-rata share contributions.  This fee includes offsetting the current General Fund cost of stormwater management.  For the stormwater utility option, an agricultural property with one dwelling unit would likely be billed as one ERU (in other words, the agricultural part would be exempt).  As with Option A, revenues could also be generated from the General Fund through a dedicated stormwater service district at a rate of approximately $0.015 to $0.02/$100 of assessed value (see discussion below).

 

 

Funding Alternatives & Issues

Regardless of which program level of service is adopted by the Board, including the baseline level of service, additional revenue will be required.  The funding alternatives presented by staff maintain some existing funding elements and provide options for other elements.   Under each of the program level of service options, permit fees and pro-rata share are proposed to remain as currently used.   However, it is recommended that if a stormwater utility or district is created, that the current general fund cost of stormwater management be shifted to that newly created funding mechanism.  

 

Staff believes three funding options are worth considering.  These are:

 

1.  General fund:  The advantage of expanding the use of the general fund is that it minimizes the administrative burden.  As such, if the Board was interested in pursuing the base level of service, the additional cost above what has been previously funded would be a fraction of a penny on the property tax rate.  That does not appear to justify the administrative cost of the other options.   Conversely, if the Board preferred one of the expanded levels of service options, the additional cost would be a penny or more on the property tax rate and could present a funding challenge.  If an expanded level of service is preferred by the Board, staff recommends considering the two funding options listed below.  

 

2.  Stormwater utility: A stormwater utility has been the most common means of providing a dedicated funding source for stormwater management in Virginia.  The advantage of the stormwater utility is that it provides a dedicated funding source and attempts to relate the stormwater impact to the utility fee for each property.  As such, it is most appropriately used when large sustained expenditures are anticipated.  As proposed by staff, this utility would also shift most of the stormwater management costs that are currently funded with the general fund to the stormwater utility.  This would reduce the general fund demand for stormwater management by approximately $500,000 per year. 

 

There are several issues with a stormwater utility worth discussing.  First, this is a complex program to administer and requires considerable time and money to establish.  For example, to set the initial fees for commercial property, we would need to measure the impact of each property by calculating an equivalent number of ERUs (equivalent residential units).   As such, the administrative cost for this utility would outweigh the benefit for the base level of service.   Second, single family dwellings are typically charged the same rate – one  ERU -- regardless of size. This assumes all houses have roughly the same stormwater impact.  That simplifies the administrative burden, but could be viewed as a regressive fee, as it charges the property owner with a large house the same as the owner with a small house (although the rates are relatively low at $18 to $24 per year).  The utility can create a different fee based on house size, but that significantly increases the administrative burden in managing the utility.  Third, the utility structure would require the Board to annually set the appropriate utility rate.  This is similar to what the ACSA currently does for water and sewer in balancing costs and revenue needs.  Finally, the stormwater utility would likely be billed as a separate line item on the property tax.  This could be a public perception issue somewhat similar to how some view the line items on a phone bill.    

 

3.  Stormwater Service District:  Basically, this program creates a separate dedicated charge for stormwater using the property assessment.  Like the stormwater utility, this creates a dedicated funding source and could allow current program funding to be shifted within the general fund to this stormwater district.   This differs from the utility in that the property charges are based on assessed property value rather than attempting to measure the property’s stormwater impact.   The advantages of this option are that it is much simpler to administer and, by Board policy, could have an automatic adjuster for inflation. For example, if a stormwater rate of $0.02/$100 assessed was established as a dedicated funding source, as property values increased, the funding level of this program would also increase.  This allows the program to have an automatic adjustment for inflation and housing growth that avoids the need for the Board to perform an annual rate change. 

 

There are several issues worth considering.   First, it must be recognized that the district method does not attempt to relate costs to stormwater impacts, but rather uses property values.  That said, this is really no different than what is done with the General Fund.   Second, while the administrative burden would be smaller than the stormwater utility, it would have a larger administrative burden than use of the general fund.  Finally, like the utility, this would likely be billed as a separate line item on the property tax bill and have that same concern with public perception.   

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Staff would like to receive input from the Board regarding the level of service you feel is most appropriate for the County’s changing stormwater program.  Staff is preparing an overview of a number of urban area needs, including stormwater, to discuss with the Board in a more comprehensive way at a Board work session in September.  Prioritizing and funding urban infrastructure is also planned for discussion at October’s Strategic Planning retreat.  It is recommended that a final decision on funding the stormwater program be made as a part of this more comprehensive discussion.

 

Return to February 9 executive summary