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Developer explains effects of new runoff rules

By Staff
Projects will need more land to avoid permits, he contends
By DAN PARSONS
Staff Writer
New stormwater regulations, set to take effect Aug. 1, already are causing developers to consider purchasing more land on which to build some projects, projects that if built today would require less land than if built after Aug. 1.
Al Gerard is familiar with both sides of the stormwater debate. He once worked as a permitting agent for the Beaufort County Health Department. Currently, he works in the real-estate field.
The result will be lower land prices, Gerard said. Developers will not pay as much for a piece of property on which they would be limited to building 35 residential units as they would if they could build 50 units on the property, he said.
Within a half-mile of shellfish waters, the new rules decreases to 12 percent the portion of a lot that can be built on before the builder is required to have a permitted stormwater-control device on the property. Everywhere else in a coastal county, the threshold is 24 percent. If wetlands are located on the lot, that area is not included in the calculation of the lot size.
Gerard wants soil absorption to be a variable in that calculation. Certain soil types are better able to absorb rainwater than others, he said. If a development is being built on absorptive soil, he said, the developer should be able to build larger buildings on smaller lots.
Gerard described a lot within a typical waterfront development — after observing Coastal Area Management Act setbacks, which under the new rules would be increased to 50 feet — as being about three-quarters of an acre in size, or about 35,000 square feet. Under existing regulations, the typical waterfront cottage for a lot that size would be about 2,000 square feet, he said. To make the calculations for stormwater controls, he said, the surface area of the driveway, any decks and outlying buildings or garages would be added to that square footage.
Once the threshold area for a particular lot is covered by surfaces that do not absorb rainwater, property owners have several options when it comes to stormwater-control devices that require permits under existing Coastal Area Management Act rules. They include the installation of a cistern to catch runoff or a rain garden into which rainwater would flow, among others. If the new rules are implemented, some innovative stormwater controls could be in the offing as they are integrated into the construction of houses by engineers, Gerard said, but they could become cost prohibitive to property owners.