MARTINSBURG - New stormwater management rules that will be implemented through the federal Chesapeake Bay Program will weigh heavily on homebuilders and land developers in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties.
"This is an issue that is challenging, and we'll have to deal with it," David Hartley, executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Homebuilders Association, said after the Region 9-West Virginia Stormwater Ordinance Project kick-off meeting Wednesday at Mountain State University in Martinsburg.
He said the homebuilding and development industries are taking a wait-and-see attitude for now.
"We'll have to see where things go, but the regulations have to be economically viable or they don't happen," Hartley said. "There has to be a meeting of the minds -
there has to be compromise. That's why we want to have a seat at the table."
He added that of all the sources that introduce pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay, development is the smallest but the easiest to control.
In an earlier interview, Hartley said the cost to manage stormwater in residential developments will increase as a result of new Chesapeake Bay Program requirements, and that will affect the affordability of housing.
"The implications are that it will be costly - it could be dramatically more costly," he said earlier.
Hartley definitely sounded pessimistic about whether the new rules and regulations would be better or more effective than current standards.
About 25 representatives of local counties and municipalities as well as developers and engineering firms were named to a steering committee that will write a model stormwater management ordinance that local jurisdictions can use.
The project is funded by a $30,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant that was channeled through the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Region 9 Planning and Development Council, which includes the tri-county, matched the grant with $12,000.
Delta Development Group Inc. of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is facilitating the project.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order May 12 of last year mandating the development and implementation of "a new strategy for protection and restoration of the Chesapeake region," meaning reducing pollutants getting into the Chesapeake Bay directly and indirectly by way of rivers, streams and creeks that flow into the bay.
State and local governments in the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed will have to comply with new rules regulating nutrient and sediment contamination of the bay from waste water facilities, agricultural operations and storm water runoff.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes the greater eight-county Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia in addition to parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Alana Hartman, Potomac Basin coordinator of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, is the liaison between the state and the federal Chesapeake Bay Program. She told members of the steering committee that the federal government is emphasizing non-point pollution sources, including stormwater runoff, in its program plan.
"I would recommend a robust section (in the model ordinance) accounting for growth - population growth," Hartman said. "Stormwater has become a real focus for the bay. Accounting for growth has become the most important thing."
What new developments will be required to do with runoff and how much water runs off developments have been talked about, she said.
"If you control the amount (of stormwater runoff), you control the pollution," Hartman said.
She added that incentives to encourage certain kinds of growth and discourage other kinds of growth have been discussed on the federal level.
Nearly all the counties and municipalities have stormwater management regulations either as part of their subdivision regulations or as standalone ordinances, officials said. Jurisdictions without regulations will be able to use the model ordinance to write their own, customizing it to meet their particular needs, officials said.
However, even jurisdictions that already have stormwater management regulations will be able to use the model ordinance, like Martinsburg.
"There will be aspects of the model ordinance that will apply to Martinsburg's existing regulations," Mike Covell, the city's planner and engineer, said after the meeting. "We might not use it in its entirety, but there's going to be elements that are pertinent and timely that we can amend into our existing ordinance."
Writing the model ordinance is expected to take seven months, Delta Development Group's Steve Hoffman told the steering committee.
It has been divided into seven sections, including such articles as general provisions and definitions, exceptions, inspections and the like, he said. The steering committee will address a different section at each of its monthly meetings, he said.