Stormwater resolution passes by narrow margin

By Megan R. Harrell

Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   After much deliberation, the Carter County Planning Commission passed a stormwater ordinance resolution with a six to four vote. The resolution was discussed in detail during Tuesday's scheduled monthly meeting.
   Carter County Director of Planning and Zoning, Chris Schuettler presented the commission with an updated copy of the federally mandated ordinance he has been compiling for several months. Members of the commission were asked to give the ordinance their final approval before its presentation to the full county commission in January.
   Planning Commission member, R.L. Miller voiced some concerns after reviewing the finalized ordinance that will regulate uncontrolled stormwater drainage and discharge in the county. Miller's biggest concern surrounded the burden of cost associated with the regulations.
   "I am worried about the small man in the county that cannot afford to pay for the cost of having these changes made," Miller said.
   The ordinance calls for drainage structures to be in place on properties where pollutants could enter waterways in Carter County. Miller and other members of the planning commission were concerned about private landowners having to absorb the cost of installing the drainage structures.
   Commissioners also discussed the difficulty of having to apply the ordinances to areas where pollution occurred several years ago.
   The government authorizes the planning commission to impose controls on future and already existing development in order to reduce discharge and pollution of stormwater in the area.
   Questions were raised as to how the commission will be able to fairly enforce regulations in areas where pollution took place in the past. "I can go along with applying it to the future, but going back, I can't agree with," Miller said.
   Chairman Bob Hughes addressed concerns by pointing out that the government has a final say in what must take place to clean up the stormwater in Carter County.
   "If we do not maintain and take care of this water system the state is going to take care of it for us, and force us into doing what we should have been doing a long time ago," Hughes said. "If it is creating a hazard or health problem we have to go back to it to protect our water and our environment."
   All development in the county on one acre or more of land will have to comply with the new ordinances. Any changes made to the land contour by grading, filling, excavating, removal of topsoil, or other vegetative covering must comply with the guidelines set forth in the stormwater resolution.
   In order for it to go into effect, the entire county commission must pass the resolution during January's meeting. Schuettler must present an agreed upon stormwater phase II resolution to Nashville by March 1, 2003, or the county stands to lose its state funding.
   "If we do not do this we don't get any grants for the county. This is a federal mandate," Schuettler said. "If the full commission does not approve this, from March 1 on, Carter County will not be eligible for any state bonds or funds."
   In other business, the commission discussed options for litter regulations in the county. Members were briefed by the county attorney on current regulations in place and potential regulations that could be used to enforce litter compliance throughout the county.
   The county would either adopt regulations similar to the city of Elizabethton, which are enforced in civil court, or it could adopt regulations that are enforced by the Sheriff's Department.
   County Attorney, George Dugger stated that there is some question as to the constitutionality of the regulations. He recommended further research be completed before the commission draws up a resolution addressing the issue.
   The planning commission also voted to set up two educational workshops. During the workshops members of the commission will be informed on administrative and procedural processes, land use and planning, natural resources, and the regulations available to the planning commission for enforcement.