Gaines Group Architects

5 ways to reduce the Stormwater Fee you will have to pay in Harrisonburg

5 ways to reduce the Stormwater Fee you will have to pay in Harrisonburg

Rain falls from the sky. Buildings, parking lots, sidewalks, and streets collect and funnel the water into the storm water system. In Harrisonburg, this water all finds its way into our local creeks and streams. Walking through downtown, you see (smell) it in Blacks Run for instance.

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Each year, a cleanup is organized to remove the storm debris (trash, paper, plastic…) from Blacks Run. However, this does not / cannot remove all the pollutants that get into the waterways and eventually find their way into the Chesapeake Bay. These pollutants have been flowing into the Bay for years from all over the state. So now each resident of localities that have mandated Municipal Seperate Storm Sewer System permits issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (Harrisonburg, Charlottesville) will pay to help clean it up.

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Harrisonburg will institute a storm water fee for every home owner of $10.50 per 500 sf of impervious surface. For most home owners this will amount to $50 per year. For larger property owners, this will be a harder pill to swallow.

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Here are 5 things that you can do to help (and it will reduce your fee to the city by up to 50%).

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We have been designing solutions to reduce storm water run off since 1999 when we implemented storm water ponds at Stone Creek Village Apartments.

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These are not new ideas or strategies. These are good for the environment, the Bay, local water systems, and our underground water system.

Green Term Defined: Stormwater

Those living in the Chesapeake Bay Water Shed are going to start hearing a LOT about Stormwater over the next few months. Stormwater is water that comes from precipitation (rain, snow, sleet…) and does not soak into the ground. Stormwater runoff is the concern that is now being addressed in a proactive manner in our area. This surface runoff, which can flow directly into a stream or creek or through storm sewers and eventually becomes surface waters.

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The two main concerns of stormwater are flooding and water pollution. We have found ways to battle the flooding issues over the years by building higher, channeling streams to avoid flooding in inhabited areas, and by building detention ponds. Now we are addressing the water pollution aspect of stormwater as we see the negative impacts on our fresh water resources. Runoff from impervious surfaces (roads, buildings, driveways, gravel parking lots) does not soak into the ground and collects chemicals such as oil, engine coolant, and degreasers which ends up in our surface water. Heavy rains on our front yards wash off the excess fertilizers and weed killers we use to keep the lawn green into our watershed. Agriculture uses heavy pesticides and fertilizers to amp up crop growth which also seeps into our streams. Erosion along stream edges and livestock being allowed into streams is also a major problem with our watershed issues. Of course industry has also played a part in the problem over the years as many businesses were developed along waterways to take advantage of the supply of fresh water.

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Things that can be done in the building industry to protect our watershed include vegetative roofs, raingardens, cisterns, pervious pavement, and LID (low impact development). Charlottesville, Staunton, and Harrisonburg are MS4s. This requires the city to develop and implement and enforce a stormwater management program. This includes 6 minimum control measures:

1. public education and outreach

2. public participation and involvement

3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination

4. construction site stormwater runoff management

5. post construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment on prior developed land

6. pollution prevention for municipal operations

Stormwater Fee coming to a town near you SOON.

Storm water has always been an issue on the construction site. Your contractor had to manage run off, clean truck tires before leaving the site, and install bio-ponds. All of these strategies have become common place in the industry.

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Now stormwater is becoming an issue for a wider audience. In order to protect the Chesapeake Bay, new regulations are coming for localities. This will most likely impact you and your home. Staunton and Charlottesville have already instituted a “storm water management fee” that is calculated by the percentage of impervious service on your property. In other words, the larger your home, the longer your traditional driveway, and the bigger your patio, the more you will pay.

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There are many strategies you can implement into your property design to reduce your fee. Vegetated walls, pervious pavement and vegetative roofs are just a few of the things you can do to your home. Protecting the Chesapeake Bay will benefit all of us for future generations, stiffer stormwater regulations will help with that goal. However, reducing your stormwater fee is something that will pay dividends to both protecting the bay and your wallet.

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