Fairfax County Approves New Stormwater Management Ordinance


January 28, 2013

News Highlights

  • New ordinance puts a cap on the amount of stormwater and pollutants allowed from new development.
  • If in effect today, the new rules wouldn’t impact more than 90 percent of existing residential infill building projects. The ordinance takes effect on July 1 unless this state-mandated date changes.
  • The new rules were mandated by the state, and about 90 percent of the county’s new ordinance consists of state requirements. However, Fairfax County has had a stormwater ordinance on the books since the early 1970s.

 As required by the state, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted a new stormwater ordinance today to limit polluted runoff from new development. The new rules will help protect stream channels and water quality by placing a cap on the amount of stormwater and pollutants, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, permitted to flow from newly-developed properties.

“In adopting the new stormwater ordinance, our board has exercised responsible environmental stewardship to protect our watersheds and stream valleys and to preserve the Chesapeake Bay,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.  

The new ordinance, which will go into effect on July 1 unless this state-mandated date changes. The law still must be submitted to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for final approval.

The new ordinance aims to capture and treat runoff closer to its source. The rules will result in a greater use of rain gardens, green roofs, infiltration and other low impact development techniques to deal with runoff from new development. These methods better mimic nature by slowing, reducing, and reusing stormwater runoff.

Even though Fairfax County has had stormwater rules in place since the early 1970s, the state mandated the new ordinance to ensure a consistent statewide standard for stormwater management practices. As a result, about 90 percent of the county’s new ordinance consists of these state rules. The mandate did provide some latitude to balance the state’s requirements with localized interests and existing policies and procedures to maintain a high pollution prevention standard while minimizing the impact on the average homeowner.

County officials say the law won’t directly impact most existing homeowners. If the law were enforced today, more than 90 percent of existing residential infill building projects would not be affected by the new requirements.

As part of the new state requirements, local governments now have the responsibility to administer the state’s stormwater permit program. This means that the county will conduct state-required inspections and enforcement actions.

To develop its new ordinance, the county sought input from developers, environmentalists, civic groups, individuals and others. This year-long collaborative process allowed the new rules to balance these diverse concerns while working within the state-mandated framework.

For members of the media, contact the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services at 703-324-5880, TTY 711, for more information.

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