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Pouring rain scours the hardscape, carrying its toxins to nearby streams. Regulations soon will require the Roanoke River region to stop the poisonous flow.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Once Roanoke enacts storm water fees, some may grumble that the government will tax anything — including the rain.
There is an element of truth to that. Essentially, storm water fees will make each property owner responsible for the rain that falls upon his roof, patio, driveway and parking lot. But under the fee structure being considered, to a limited extent property owners can control the rain and the amount they’ll be taxed.
The city won’t be taxing rain just to tax rain. It has a $74 million problem to solve and will soon be under strict federal and state regulations to do so. Ignoring regulators only increases the cost, as others have found: Consent orders compel compliance and fines are assessed for delays.
Creation of a storm water utility is the city’s long-considered response to raising the funding it will need to address both the quantity and quality of storm water. All localities within the Roanoke River watershed soon will be under the same regulations, but two things make the regulations more costly for the city than for the suburbs: topography and population density.
Roanoke sits at the bottom of a bowl of mountains and cannot avoid the law of nature that sends runoff and streams funneling into the city limits. With few undeveloped areas, runoff sweeps along all the natural and unnatural debris that accumulates on roofs, roads, sidewalks and nearly any fixture man has created.
Complicating matters is the city’s antiquated, and in too many places inadequate, network of storm water pipes that gather this runoff and discharge it directly into streams — a practice that harms both wildlife and our own drinking water. Surrounding counties have problems unique to them that each is beginning to face. Eventually, it is hoped that all will work together to correct common, overlapping problems.
In the meantime, Roanoke officials understand they’ve delayed long enough in creating a storm water utility. Plans will be presented in early July for city council to consider. Though many details will need to be discussed and approved, the idea is to assess property owners a small fee for every 500 square feet of impervious surface on their property. The cost most likely will still average about $36 a year, similar to earlier proposals. Off-setting credits will be offered to those property owners who have taken measures to keep rain from rolling off their property.
An owner of a small home without a concrete driveway would pay less than a McMansion owner with a tennis court in the back yard. It’s an equitable system that also will be applied to commercial, industrial, nonprofit and church properties.
All developed properties contribute to the problem, requiring owners to pay their proportionate share to mitigate the damage to the ecosystem.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us