Arlington County Board Adopts New Stormwater Management Ordinance

  • Protecting water quality
  • Helping cleanup Chesapeake Bay
  • Responding to new State regulations

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Arlington County Board today adopted a more stringent, updated Stormwater Management Ordinance.

The new ordinance responds to updated Commonwealth of Virginia regulations and codifies the County's commitment to protecting local water quality and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The County's adoption of a new Stormwater Management Ordinance reflects a new era of stormwater management driven by EPA's Chesapeake Bay cleanup mandate.

“This update to the Stormwater Management Ordinance meets new state regulations and helps ensure our community's environmental sustainability,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “All of us – every business owner and resident in Arlington and in the region – are being called upon to do our part to improve water quality and protect the Chesapeake Bay.”

The County Board voted 4 to 0 to adopt the Stormwater Management Ordinance.

More stringent requirements for water quality, flood protection

The new Stormwater Management Ordinance (Chapter 60 of the County Code) is more stringent than previous requirements, and addresses both water quality and flood protection for all public and private development activities. Under the new ordinance, developers will be required to treat more of the impervious area on a site and build more or larger stormwater facilities to achieve that treatment. A stormwater management facility collects and filters stormwater, such as a rain garden, a stormwater planter, or a pervious driveway.

The new ordinance will complement the County's ongoing efforts to reduce stormwater pollution through watershed retrofits, stream restoration, street sweeping, and other stormwater programs.

New way to calculate stormwater management requirements for projects

The major change with new State regulations and the updated Stormwater Management Ordinance is a new method to calculate stormwater management requirements for a development project —the Runoff Reduction Method (RRM).

The RRM incentivizes stormwater management practices that reduce runoff volume, in addition to providing pollution filtration. RRM practices include bioretention, permeable paving, vegetated roofs, infiltration, and rainwater capture and re-use.

Costs of compliance rising across the region

Across the region, stormwater management costs for development are rising as requirements increase. Overall, compliance with the new RRM requirements will require more effort than compliance with current requirements. However, because it is a new methodology, there is not much existing cost information to project fiscal impacts.

The new ordinance will help the County work toward pollution reduction goals under the County's stormwater permit and the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) — and the County's environmental protection goals for its local streams.

New requirements apply to all types of development

As with the County's current requirements, the new stormwater requirements will apply to all development in Arlington, from single-family home projects to high rise commercial development.

The County chose to continue to regulate individual single-family home projects that disturb at least 2,500 square feet of land, as allowed under State law. These projects have been regulated by the County's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance since County Board adoption in 1992. Continued regulation is necessary because of the significant cumulative stormwater impacts of single-family home redevelopment. The 2,500 square foot regulatory threshold does not affect 99 percent of existing home addition projects in Arlington.

The authority to minimize stormwater runoff impacts to adjacent properties, which continue to be a significant community concern, is another important reason to regulate single-family home projects. New homes regulated by the proposed ordinance will generally require more stormwater management facilities with increased stormwater capacity, including stormwater planter systems (rain gardens constructed within raised structures to capture and slowly release rooftop runoff), pervious driveways, rain gardens, and infiltration systems.

The requirement for property owners who have installed stormwater management facilities as a requirement of development to maintain those facilities will remain the same under the revised ordinance. Property owners must certify inspection and maintenance of their stormwater management facility annually. Online forms for inspection, maintenance, and reporting make this process as owner-friendly as possible.

More comprehensive pollution prevention during construction

The new State regulations require more comprehensive pollution prevention during construction, in order to reduce sediment releases from the site, as well as to control other pollution sources such as concrete washout, waste disposal areas, and vehicle fueling.

Public process

County staff have briefed the development community and made presentations to the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission, the Long Range Planning Committee of the Planning Commission, and the full Planning Commission, on the requirements of the new ordinance.

The County's final adopted Stormwater Management Ordinance must be approved by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) before July 1, 2014, according to State VSMP Permit regulations.

To learn more, visit the County website; click on County Board Recessed Meeting (May 13). Scroll down to Item #32 on the Agenda to read the staff report.

Arlington Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the “10 miles square” parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. Slightly smaller than 26 square miles, it is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, and one of only a handful with the prized Aaa/AAA/AAA bond rating. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods and quality schools, and has received numerous awards for Smart Growth and transit-oriented development. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world — including the Pentagon — Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.