FLOYD COUNTY — Floyd County now has an updated stormwater ordinance that brings together changes made over the years.
The Floyd County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve a new stormwater ordinance at its Tuesday meeting. Before the vote, a representative from the Lochmueller Group — a regional consulting firm that reviewed the ordinance — spoke at the monthly stormwater board meeting to discuss Floyd County's approach to stormwater management and to answer questions about the document, which compiles a number of add-ons that have been made to the ordinance since 2007 into a unified ordinance.
The ordinance had already been approved by the stormwater board, which consists of the three commissioners and county surveyor Bill Gibson. The updated ordinance includes additions that were made in both 2010 and 2017, including changes made due to federal mandates. Bryan Wallace, environmental scientist with the Lochmueller Group, said nothing has changed in the new ordinance except a few updated definitions.
"It's just the same ordinances that still apply today as they did in the 2000s," he said.
The new ordinance includes four existing ordinances regarding its stormwater policies, but not its rates, according to Wallace. The rate ordinance is completely separate, he said. The document also includes several ordinances that address policies regarding fringe areas in the county on topics such as erosion control.
"So you have three mandatory ordinances," he said. "You have illicit discharge, so what are you going to do about nasty stuff in the water. You have construction, so on a construction site, what do you do about sediment and don't let pollution leave, and then you have post-construction, so everything's built and you have a basin, the developers walked away and there are pipes in the ground and you're taking care of that. Those three ordinances all describe what you're going to do in terms of enforcement, so if you find the problem, what does the county do, and then who's responsible?"
Under a current Floyd County ordinance, property owners in unincorporated areas of the county have paid $39 a year since the ordinance was established in 2007, but extra fees are also added based on the amount of impervious surfaces — or hard surfaces like roofs or driveways — they have on their property. The surfaces are measured by Stantec, an engineering services company, and sent to the auditor's office, and the fee is placed on yearly property tax bills.
Wallace explained why the Floyd County uses the MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System). The county's stormwater program is required under the Clean Water Act, and he said the designation is based on Floyd County having an "urbanized zone" that was identified based on population data from the census. Instead of only implementing the stormwater program in the urbanized zone, the county's approach covers all unincorporated parts of the county.
Last year, the county received a total of $756,000 in stormwater fees. A total of 971 properties classified as agricultural resulted in $75,800 in fees, while 13,000 residential property designations resulted in $517,000. The properties are designated by the Floyd County's Assessor's Office.
Properties such as businesses and schools pay more fees than residential properties because they have larger buildings and paved parking lots with more impervious surfaces.
For several Floyd County residents, their concerns were related to the county's stormwater fees. Dale Mann, who raises cattle on his farm in Floyd County, is critical of how the fee for impervious surfaces affects farmers. He said farmers with numerous buildings such as barns and outbuildings are charged more. He said his mother, who lives on more than four acres of agricultural land, pays $54 in stormwater fees while "a big mansion at Plum Hill that's got 20,000 square feet on half an acre pays $39."
"The four and a half acres takes the water, and these big places, these big houses are putting it out," he said. "We get penalized because we've got land and because we're [agriculture]. That's my biggest cry. That's never been right."
Mann said that Floyd County is classified as one of 23 MS4 counties in the state, but only seven charge a yearly fee. He noted that while Clark County is larger than Floyd County, it does not charge a stormwater fee.
Greenville farmer Dennis Konkle said he believes agriculture should be exempt from the stormwater fees.
"They're not even giving the farmers an opportunity to express their interests and their concerns," he said. "We as farmers — we absorb an awful lot of somebody else's stormwater, and we are assessed by our impervious surface area. How can I be a farmer and not have any barns to put my livestock in or my equipment in? But I'm penalized for it."
According to Floyd County Stormwater Director Chris Moore, farmers can apply for 15 different credits to reduce their annual stormwater fee, including fencing livestock out of streams, USDA-recognized farm, watershed improvement project participation and septic tank maintenance.
The fee helps pay for drainage improvement projects such as cleaning and fixing culverts and catch basins, and the use of the Floyd County Highway Department for this stormwater work reduces yearly costs, according to Moore. The program also involves educating the public and making sure construction crews follow stormwater requirements.