Polk holds off on local erosion control enforcement

Published 1:28 pm Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Given the current downturn in development and building, Polk County commissioners have agreed to hold off on seeking local enforcement of erosion control laws.
Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to hold off on seeking state approval for local enforcement until the economy improves. They said it will cost too much money to hire an enforcement officer with little return given the limited development taking place.
Prior to making the decision, commissioners reviewed the steep decline in building permits and acreage in development. Board chair Cindy Walker has been researching the issue for months and presented data showing that the number of residential building permits issued last year was only a quarter of what was issued in 2003.
She also showed that development acreage under erosion control enforcement has declined in more.
Walker also said she has talked to other counties and municipalities who do their own enforcement and across the board they said the county will have to subsidize costs because local enforcement will never pay for itself.
“The numbers are interesting because we need to figure out when is best to start (our own enforcement) because I dont think it is right now,” Walker said.
Polk has been discussing doing its own enforcement for a few years, given that the state has a limited number of enforcers and Polk officials have said issues could be addressed quicker with local monitoring of sites. All of the commissioners said they are in favor of doing their own enforcement when the time is right and the program can come closer to paying for itself with more development.
They agreed to wait until the number of single family building permits rises more than 40 percent, and the amount of acreage in enforcement nearly triples from last year’s levels.
State regulations to take over enforcement may also be different once the economy is better, commissioner Rene McDermott said.
In the meantime, Polk has established a relationship with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Control (DENR) office and is being kept up to date on what is occurring.
The county approved its own erosion and sedimentation ordinance last year, but has been stumped in the process due to state regulations. The state must approve Polk doing its own enforcement and due to the economy this year, the state is asking that counties take over existing state sites, even though the state has already been paid for those permits.
Polk County at one time was planning to partner with Henderson County, which does its own enforcement and considered doing Polk Countys as well. Once the state said it wanted counties to take over existing sites, Henderson County said it would not take on Polk enforcement.
Acreage the state is enforcing now is unknown, but Walker did show how much acreage has been placed in the system for development since 2005 and figured how much of that acreage Polk County would be responsible for when it takes over enforcement.
The acreage in permits has significantly dropped since 2005, with 430 total acres being enforced in 2005 and only 38 so far in 2010. There were 56 acres in state permits in 2009.
Polk County would not have to take over acreage that is classified as “trout,” “utilities,” “town,” or “public funded.” Taking that into account, Polk County would only be responsible for enforcing almost 7 of the total 38 acres permitted this year.

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