2008-07-23 / Front Page

County chamber opposes stricter standard for phosphorous

By Greg Pearson

Page Dowdy/Chesterfield Observer Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce Chairman Neal Lappe (standing) and 10 other board members met last week to discuss and vote on the group's position on the .16 phosphorous level.
The Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors has voted unanimously against lowering the amount of phosphorous runoff to .16 pounds per acre per year from new development in the Upper Swift Creek Plan (USCP) area. The board of supervisors will hold a public hearing on lowering the limit next week.

With 625 members, the chamber is the largest business organization in Chesterfield.

The current phosphorus standard is .22 pounds for residential properties and .45 pounds for commercial. The .16 standard is considered to be what would occur naturally without any development.

"There is no valid scientific evidence that more strict phosphorous requirements will have an impact on water quality," said Neal Lappe, the chamber's chairman. "The stricter standard would have a devastating impact on business development."

"After considering both sides, it was clear that the .16 standard has no scientific support and is both arbitrary and capricious," added former Chairman Sam Kaufman, one of the 11 chamber board members who voted to oppose the measure. "It's an impossible standard to meet and not geared toward any sound environmental policy."

Both the Chesterfield Planning Commission and the county's Environmental Engineering Department also oppose the .16 standard.

The development community has also been meeting, including private property owners who fear their property rights are being denied. They and the business community believe the tougher standard is being promoted by Matoaca Supervisor Marleen Durfee to fulfill a campaign pledge. In an email, Durfee wrote she has not taken a position yet.

"I don't think it's appropriate to shut down all development in the watershed," said Dan Gecker, vice chairman of the board of supervisors.

Last Thursday, Hands Across the Lake (HAL), an advocacy group that works to preserve the reservoir, endorsed the .16 standard for both residential and commercial development. HAL Chairman Tom Pakurar said Oregon, Minnesota and Alabama are using "zero-impact development…developing without any pollution factor associated with it."

"The question is, will the county be proactive or reactive when it could be too late?" asked Pakurar.

Board of supervisors Chairman Art Warren has circulated a compromise with a two-tiered, higher standard when the data from the Swift Creek Reservoir shows phosphorous building up. In addition to Gecker, Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle reportedly opposes the .16 limit, so the business and development communities are focusing their efforts on Warren and Dale Supervisor Jim Holland.

Last month, Bill Woodfin, who has a master's degree in environmental science and engineering and once worked as the deputy director of the State Water Control Board, wrote the supervisors saying scientific support is lacking for the USCP that was adopted on June 25. He urged more monitoring for existing property owners on and near the lake, who have "no limits to the amount of fertilizers and pesticides they place on their lawns."

Some homeowners on the lake in Brandermill and Woodlake have grown grass or altered the resource protection area between their homes and the water's edge. Pakurar acknowledged that those community associations have had to enforce the regulations "on a small number of homeowners." But he said the banks of the 11 streams that supply water to the reservoir are equally important. Some of those streams also flow through Brandermill and Woodlake.

One source who declined to be identified questioned whether it is legal for Chesterfield to have higher water-quality standards than Virginia since the state abides by the Dillion Rule, which requires state authorization. Some Virginia manufacturers are reportedly monitoring the county's decision. "Even if they are not directly affected, they will not let the precedence stand," said the source.

The Roseland rezoning hangs in the balance in the midst of the phosphorus-level debate. "Roseland dies with the .16 standard," said developer Dave Anderson.

Roseland could produce 5,140 homes, 400 smaller carriage homes and up to 1.5 million square feet of office and retail space on 1,395 acres at the intersection of Route 288 and Woolridge Road. In public meetings, Warren and Gecker have been complimentary of Roseland and how its developers have willingly met with groups and individuals to answer objections.

Both the commission and the planning department have recommended approval of the case. A majority of the school board has also endorsed it.

About 80 percent of the land is in Matoaca District, and those officials from that district - Durfee, Commissioner Wayne Bass and School Board member Omarh Rajah - have raised questions.

Asked how the zoning case was proceeding with Durfee, developer Anderson preferred to respond by e-mail, writing, "We have worked with Mrs. Durfee on the areas where she has shared concerns, including continued dialogue and changes to accommodate Charter Colony residents. We know that Mrs. Durfee has been an advocate for [smart growth principles] that we have stood for in planning Roseland, so we certainly would hope that she will be eager to endorse the zoning on July 30."

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