New law could cost home builders, homeowners
By Michael Howlett Staff Writer
A new storm water management program could cost home builders, as well as homeowners, thousands of dollars in extra fees, according to Carroll County Building Official Jim Whitten and Environmental Sediment Control Inspector Tim Carpenter.
House Bill 1065, which was passed by the state legislature in 2012, calls for counties to adopt and administer a local storm water management program by July 1 of this year. Although counties presently have an ordinance dealing with dirt and mud, this one will deal specifically with water.
In order to make all contractors and surveyors, as well as future homeowners or present homeowners who plan on making changes to their property, aware of what the new ordinance will entail, Whitten and Carpenter will hold an informational meeting on Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Carroll County Board of Supervisors’ board room.
“The meeting will be especially important for building professionals,” noted Carpenter.
“A lot of people from out of state are building here and they put their faith in the contractor. So we definitely need to educate the graders, contractors and surveyors,” he said.
“We want people to be aware of the new policies about land disturbing activity. We want the new policies to have the lowest impact as possible, and we want people to know it’s coming,” said Whitten, who added that the county, not the state, will be in charge of enforcing and collecting the fees. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will oversee the county.
“We will submit a list of how much land has been disturbed each month and how much in fees we’ve collected. If the fees and the disturbed land do not match up, we will be accountable to the DEQ,” said Whitten.
Under the new law, anyone disturbing at least an acre of land will be charged a fee. Although the county drafted an ordinance in November of 2013, the overall fee has not been “set in stone,” according to Whitten. The proposed fee at this point is $2,700, with $756 of that going to the state. The state’s part of the fee is “set in stone.”
However, the fees apply to anyone building in a residential development, regardless of size.
In addition, the county will do yearly checks, which will also require a fee.
When building, many people clear their entire lot of trees and bushes, and contractors prefer that since it provides them plenty of room for the building process. However, Whitten said it would be wise for people to reconsider this practice.
“Don’t clear all the land at one time; have the contractors and surveyors keep it to a minimum,” advised Whitten.
There may be times when a home builder may have to enlist the services of an engineer, said Carpenter.
“In some cases, a home builder may have to hire an engineer to design the property for basins and water retention areas; they may have to put in a permanent storm water facility,” he said.
However, it is not just the home builder who needs to be aware of the new law, it is also homeowners, since “land disturbing activity is defined as a man-made change to the land surface that potentially changes its runoff characteristics, including clearing, grading or excavation,” noted Carpenter.
“We need to get smart and get everybody together on this. Everyone is responsible for how his property affects the environment,” said Whitten. “Please call our office. We will take the time to discuss anything and help anyone to help them find ways to keep the costs down.”
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