I just got back to the office after attending the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting. Big agenda item of the day: The Supes voted unanimously to require developers and contractors to plant permanent vegetation on construction sites within nine months of a project’s start.
Why does this matter? The state does have erosion control regulations in place, meant to keep too much soil from running off those flattened swaths of bare red clay with which we’re all familiar. But, as county staff indicated in their report to the board, there’s a loophole in the rules that some developers have exploited. See, they’re supposed to stabilize areas that will sit dormant for more than 30 days. On the 29th day, then, if they just move some equipment and a little dirt around, they can say the area is technically not dormant and avoid planting grass or otherwise preventing erosion.
Require builders to wrap it all up within nine months, the reasoning goes, and that loophole goes away.
During the public hearing, a predictable division emerged: environmentalists on the one hand (like the Southern Environmental Law Center‘s Morgan Butler), supporting the proposal, and builders on the other hand (like the Blue Ridge Home Builders’ Association‘s Jay Willer) expressing reservations. Some of the most interesting comments came from Scott Elliff, a director of the Forest Lakes Community Association. That would be Forest Lakes, as in right across the road from Hollymead Town Centre, the swath-of-bare-red-clay that haunts this proposal like a ghost.
"We live downstream from Hollymead Town Centre," said Elliff. "We’ve been substantially damaged by the development process to the tune of $1 million or more." During three years when Hollymead was denuded, he explained, erosion from the site washed into the lake at Forest Lakes 28 times faster than it would in normal conditions.
Anyone else noticed egregious erosion in your neighborhood? What do you think of the supervisors’ vote?