Stormwater and other Environmental Rules Focus of VACo Region 2 Meeting
According to Lewie Lawrence, Director of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission, there is a complex, multi-layered milieu of environmental regulations that impede efforts to promote economic development in rural areas of the state. But rather than fight this complex regulatory framework, Lawrence suggested that a program could be considered that would financially reward the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck regions for the environmental (or “ecosystem”) benefits they provide for the entire state.
For example, because of the region’s potential for enhancing its already abundant wetlands, open spaces and woodlands (also known as “green infrastructure”) economic rewards could be derived through nutrient and sediment trading programs. Lawrence compared the position of the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck regions to the Catskill region of New York, which received payments from New York City for serving as the chief source of water for the latter jurisdiction. To ensure the quality of the water received from the Catskills, New York City made payments for certain protective measures that resulted in economic benefits for the Catskills region.
Lawrence made his presentation at the August 25 meeting of VACo Region 2 in Deltaville. It was VACo’s sixth regional meeting of the year. These meetings are critical in helping VACo staff better understand the issues and challenges each region faces. The meetings are also valuable in helping the VACo shape its Annual Legislative Program.
The attendees also heard from Delegate Keith Hodges who provided an update on a study he is overseeing to determine how Virginia’s Stormwater Law can be amended to become more workable for many local governments. The actual study is being conducted by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at the College of William and Mary. Once the study is completed, certain policy options will be presented to Delegate Hodges as possible provisions in legislation he will sponsor during the 2017 session of the General Assembly. The Center’s study should be completed sometime in November.
Some of the legislative issues raised by county representatives included stormwater, the way in which the composite index is calculated (specifically the failure to include land use taxation a factor in the formula), the need for expanding broadband, taxation parity between counties and cities, the cost of providing emergency medical services, opposition to unfunded mandates, transportation, and complications associated with the groundwater withdrawal permitting process.
VACo has scheduled two more regional meetings for the year. The next one is scheduled for VACo Region 1 on September 14 between 6-8 p.m. in Northampton County. This year’s final regional meeting will combine VACo Regions 12 and 13. It will take place September 22, between 6-8 p.m. in Russell County.
VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE