Loudoun Government Could Shift Stormwater Costs to Businesses

Loudoun is the only county in Northern Virginia that pays to maintain underground stormwater facilities at commercial properties, but that could change going forward.

According to a report by county staff members, the county government pays to maintain pervious surfaces and underground water storage facilities that handle runoff from storms—facilities built by private industry on private property. They are typically made of storage chambers several feet in diameter and hundreds of feet long, which hold and slowly release water.

Those underwater chambers are more expensive than other types of stormwater control facilities—like ponds—and are typically used to maximize the area available for a developer to build, since they are buried up to 20 feet below ground and can be under parking areas.

The county is also on the hook for repairing and updating the 34 underground facilities. That can be expensive—according to the report, the county recently spent $550,000 repairing a collapsed facility, and the Department of General Services is preparing to spend more than $2 million reinforcing that and two other facilities.

Fairfax only maintains underground stormwater facilities on public property, and the Prince William County government will not accept responsibility for any underground stormwater facility.

Loudoun also cleans pervious pavements and pavers, designed to replace typical parking lots and sidewalks to allow rainwater to drain into stormwater systems underground. If they are not cleaned, they can clog and stop working, and cleaning those surfaces requires specialized equipment to keep from damaging the surface. Other county governments also clean those, but as part of their street sweeping programs. Loudoun only provides street sweeping on county-owned property.

While the rules can’t be changed for existing facilities, the county’s General Services staff is recommending that going forward property owners be responsible for maintaining any new stormwater management facilities.

Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) expressed concern about putting that responsibility on some property owners—specifically homeowners’ associations.

“I am concerned that our HOAs are now going to have to assume a pretty heavy cost burden,” Meyer said. “… I just want to make sure that staff’s initiating conversations with our HOAs, making sure that they’re onboard and working with us.”

But Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) defended the idea.

“The county is footing the bill to maintain stormwater management facilities that were done to benefit developers, and now the developers could fit more on their land because these stormwater retention facilities were built underground where they’re hard to maintain,” Buona said. “And now the taxpayers are on the bill to foot the maintenance of these facilities the developer has put in place to maximize development on their property.”

Supervisors unanimously instructed the county staff to draft amendments to county ordinances. If supervisors decide to move ahead with new rules, those ordinances must face public hearings before adoption.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

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