By Sarah Vogelsong
The Town of Bowling Green will oversee its own stormwater management from now on.
At its June 26 meeting, the Town Council passed an ordinance that puts in place regulations concerning the management of stormwater, which includes runoff from storms and snow melt.
This ordinance, which is intended to protect water quality, was passed in response to federal and state mandates that require all localities to either create their own plan for managing stormwater that is in accord with the Virginia Stormwater Management Program Permit Regulations established by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, or put the responsibility for such management in the hands of the DEQ.
Bowling Green Town Manager Stephen Manster explained to the council that “with the adoption of this ordinance, we will gain provisional approval from the Department of Environmental Quality to conduct our own program.”
Town attorney Andrea Erard also noted that the ordinance was drawn up so as to fulfill these mandates and that “there is probably nothing in there that is discretionary.”
According to Manster, retaining control over stormwater management will allow Bowling Green to get projects underway more quickly than would be possible under DEQ management. Additionally, he said that the town will benefit from a management structure that is more familiar with Bowling Green’s particular landscape and needs than an external agency would be.
The DEQ will continue to monitor the overall administration of the program and ensure that regulations are being enforced but will not review plans or issue permits.
The ordinance grants the town manager, as the administrator of the stormwater management plan, the responsibility of granting permits to applicants, as well as oversight of the planning, construction, maintenance, and monitoring of stormwater facilities and enforcement of the regulations. If it chooses to do so, the town of Bowling Green can contract out for plan review and inspection. According to Manster, the fees for permit applications would pay for any costs incurred by using contractors.
Not all building activities are subject to the stormwater regulations. Residences under a certain size are exempt, as are many agricultural uses.
Although Bowling Green has taken over responsibility for its stormwater management, Caroline County has “opted out” and will allow DEQ to administer its program. According to Caroline Senior Environmental Planner David Nunnally, because so many regulations and procedures have changed since the Virginia General Assembly revised its stormwater law in the last session, this approach allows the county, which oversees a larger volume of development than Bowling Green, to “let the processes normalize” before considering crafting its own plan.
Stormwater runoff is an important environmental concern, particularly in Virginia, where scientists have determined non-agricultural stormwater runoff to be the second leading source of pollution for the Chesapeake Bay, said Nunnally.
The state has historically overseen stormwater management through the Virginia Erosion and Sediment Law, first passed in the 1970s, the 1988 Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, and a series of stormwater management laws, first passed in the late 1980s. Starting about 10 years ago, however, these state mandates began to be brought into line with the mandates of the federal Clean Water Act, leading to changes in the programs overseeing this area.
A public hearing on Bowling Green’s new ordinance was held at the June 26 meeting, but no citizens presented any comments. The council passed the ordinance unanimously.
According to Manster, the town has already received provisional acceptance of its ordinance from DEQ.
In other business, the council adopted the town’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget in the amount of $1.72 million after a final public hearing on the personal property tax rate increase from 60 cents to 77 cents per $100 of assessed value. Resident Bonnie Cannon spoke against the increase at this hearing, stating that “I know for a fact it will make (my taxes) go up.”
Additionally, the council announced that Laura Gifford, the current town clerk, has been hired as an accounting analyst. This new position assumes some of the duties previously carried out by the town treasurer, a position that no longer exists. Among other responsibilities, Gifford will carry out tasks related to utility billing, taxes, and bank reconciliation.
Council announced its intention to seek a new town clerk to fill Gifford’s vacant place. Details about the position are posted in the town hall, and interested applicants can also contact town staff.
Three members of the Bowling Green Planning Commission’s terms are also expiring in July. Citizens interested in serving on this commission should contact the town manager as soon as possible.