Free Enterprise Forum Asks Albemarle Candidates about Unfunded Environmental Mandates

By. Neil Williamson, President

As a part of the Free Enterprise Forum mission to inform the public, we posed five questions to the eight candidates for Albemarle Board of Supervisors.  Other than minor formatting, the candidate answers are reprinted exactly as they responded.  One question will be answered by each of the candidates each day this week. 

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4. The new Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) stormwater requirements will hit Albemarle County in the next 24 months.  Meeting these new mandates is inevitable and costly.  How do you propose paying for these required stormwater improvements?  Do you favor a utility fee on impervious services?  How would this impact rural land owners and their contribution to the runoff?

Rio District

Thomas campaignRodney Thomas: I have gone on record as being against a storm water utility fee particularly as passed in the city. These fees are applied based on rooftop space and impervious pavement. This would mean that people living in the rural areas who probably have enough land/grass/plantings around their houses to mitigate storm water would pay as much as a resident in the growth area.

I also don’t like the idea of placing a fee on our non-profits and churches that might have a lot of roof square footage and impervious paved parking lots. Maybe deserving by nature, but it would put very large burden on businesses as well. It is unfortunate that the federal and state governments put these mandates on local government without funding but my thought is that it should be an increase in the general property tax and funded out of the general fund. However a lot is yet unknown in what the requirements are going to be and the details could change my mind.

Sheffield campaignBrad Sheffield: The stormwater regulations will impact rural land owners differently than those in the growth area. I support a utility fee. It is the most equitable way to make sure those who have stormwater controls take steps for mitigation. Further, if the regulations change the fee approach can change easier than changing the tax rate.

Samuel Miller District

Palmer campaignLiz Palmer:  Albemarle County has long prided itself in taking care of its drinking water watershed, adopting most of the Chesapeake Bay ordinance ahead of any other county west of I-95, so the TMDLs are not a brand new concept, but now we are being required to take them seriously.  A stormwater reserve was already beginning to accumulate but in this year’s budget it is being expended, so a new and increased source of funds must be found. 

Albemarle’s situation is much more complex than Charlottesville’s, so we should not copy their ordinance.  But I favor letting citizens know as clearly as possible what their fees or taxes are funding, which implies that a separate stormwater fee is preferable to taking money out of the general fund. 

I do not favor a fee structure that encourages sprawl into the rural area, which means I would not want a tax that put all the stormwater burden on the Development Area. My goal will be to find a fair and equitable and effective funding source that is not so complex that it fails the “predictability” test for developers, and I simply do not yet know how to achieve that. On the ACSA, the concept of “user pays” was common and I think is generally regarded as more equitable than spreading the cost to the general public.

I’m reminded that the Water Supply Plan took scientists, non-profits, governmental staff and officials, businesses, and ordinary citizens’ input before an answer was found.  We don’t have time to dally, but we should get input from as many sources as possible to arrive at the best funding source.

Snow campaignDuane Snow: I do not favor a fee at the present time. I have talked with Supervisors from other Counties. Some have set up a storm water department, others are waiting to see exactly what is going to be require. They are hoping to cover the management of the Act with existing staff.

It is my hope that we will be able to manage this without adding a lot of staff. Staff along with the Board is continuing to analyze what is going to be required and to look at the various options. We are also continuing to lobby the State Government to help fund these mandates.

Jack Jouett District

seay campaignPhillip Seay: I am awaiting information from the State which may provide a direction – maybe not. This needs to be a community effort and probably compromise to reduce the impact but equalize the cost with regard to the various situations handling storm water.

McKeel campaignDiantha McKeel: We are blessed in Albemarle County to have our own watershed and need to be good stewards of our local environment, cleaning up our streams and rivers that are at risk (about 60%), which ultimately helps to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Over the last few years Albemarle County has implemented appropriate policy changes to improve the condition of our riverbanks and the quality of our water. While recognizing Albemarle County will have to make additional changes to meet the new storm water mandates, we are positioned in a better place than other communities.

I do not favor a utility fee at the present time. I need to hear a great deal more from the Department of Environmental Quality and county staff before I would be willing to consider such a fee. Specifically, I would like to know their views of the new regulations and which infrastructure improvements and to test them on those assumptions.

Scottsville District

dittmar campaignJane Dittmar: These new regulations are causing all of the jurisdictions in the Commonwealth and in neighboring states to examine ways to meet the new mandates in the most effective and cost efficient manner. There are various models being implemented or reviewed that we can review that will help us shorten our analysis of the various options we might use in Albemarle County.

Because Albemarle is rural, suburban and urban, we will inevitably hybrid a model for compliance and for paying for the necessary stormwater improvements. I am not educated about the benefits and consequences of various models and will need to do further research before advocating for a specific one.

Burket campaignCindi Burket: I do not like it when the State and or Federal governments determine policy for local governments through unfunded mandates. However, this is a matter that the County will be dealing with in the very near future.

With unfunded mandates from both the State and Federal government to deal with stormwater management, all communities throughout the U.S. will be dealing with this costly issue. The County must submit a Stormwater Management Plan to the State by December, 15th of this year. All the information that is needed to make the important decisions in this matter is still being researched.

As a Board Member I will be researching and learning as much as possible on this matter on my own as well as depending on County staff to help in that regard. There are many facets of this issue that will need to be explored, from how to determine the amount of stormwater runoff that is actually being produced to how to fund such a mandate.

Funding solutions could include, using general fund revenue, using some type of special assessment against benefited properties or by using a stormwater utility fee. Fees are generally based on the amount of impervious services. I am not sure I like the idea of a stormwater utility fee. It seems punitive and unfair I will do the hard work necessary to come up with a stormwater management plan that works best for Albemarle County

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Friday the candidates answer the Final Free Enterprise Forum Five Question – Q5 – Proffer Policy.

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits : Candidate Websites, Facebook, Newsplex

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