Managers to discuss runoff rules

Published 3:35 am Saturday, February 2, 2008

By Staff
Some say new study needed on the effects of restrictions
Staff Writer
Managers from the state’s 20 coastal counties are planning to meet this spring to map out a strategy for educating the public on how new stormwater rules will affect life in eastern North Carolina.
Friday morning, after the annual meeting of the N.C. City and County Manager’s Association, representatives from some of those counties took time to discuss future action regarding stormwater rules approved by the Environmental Management Commission last month. Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill said representatives from Washington, Camden, Onslow, Carteret and Brunswick counties were at the meeting.
While Spruill has expressed opposition to the rules, which tighten restrictions on the management of stormwater runoff for new and existing construction in the 20 coastal counties, he said opinions on the rules differ greatly within the eastern portion of the state.
Under the revised rules, developments that are within a half-mile of shellfish waters and choose to build a structure that occupies more than 12 percent of a lot will have to install stormwater-control measures. Under the new rules, new development will require a 50-foot vegetated buffer between it and protected waters. For redeveloped property, a 30-foot buffer between protected waters and the redeveloped property is required under the new rules.
Development projects farther than a half-mile from shellfish habitats, that disturb more than 10,000 square feet of land and build on more than 24 percent of a lot’s area will be required to implement one of several stormwater-control and treatment options, according to the new rules. New commercial developments that disturb more then 10,000 square feet, or about a quarter-acre, will also have to implement the management measures under the revised rules.
Washington County Manager David Peoples, also present at Friday’s meeting, said the proposed changes could “stymie both residential and commercial development” in his county.
It is possible that a developer could lose the ability to build on up to 20 percent of a lot because of the new rules, and those new rules could create problems for homeowners who plan to install asphalt driveways, decks or storage buildings on their land, Peoples said.
The rules call for developments to contain and treat runoff with several methods such as installing cisterns, using rain gardens or storage ponds that capture stormwater before it leaves a lot.
The Division of Water Quality conducted a study in 2005 that found shellfish habitats were negatively affected under the existing stormwater rules. That study found fecal coliform, a bacteria commonly found in human waste, was causing shellfish waters to be unsafe for commercial and recreational use. Peoples said he felt that study was inadequate and did not factor in the possible economic impact of imposing the new rules.
New Hanover, Onslow and Brunswick counties are governed by more-restrictive stormwater rules than those imposed on the other 17 coastal counties, but those rules are less restrictive than the proposed rules.