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Gov. signs law easing stormwater control rules. Sierra Club says Forsyth legislator's bill could harm water quality.
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Gov. signs law easing stormwater control rules. Sierra Club says Forsyth legislator's bill could harm water quality.

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Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law Friday a state House bill that eases restrictions on stormwater permits.

House Bill 218, sponsored by Forsyth representative Jeff Zenger, cleared the state legislature Sept. 23. The law goes into effect Nov. 1.

The bill was approved 28-12 in the Senate, and the House voted 60-39 to approve two Senate amendments.

According to a bill summary by the N.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, the original version of the legislation would direct local governments to consider building expansions of no more than 20% to be minor modifications. That could mean those expansions would not need approval or would need only administrative approval.

There was some Democratic opposition to the bill based on the idea it could weaken the state’s stormwater regulations as increasing severe thunderstorms and hurricanes lead to massive flooding.

“What this bill does is enable businesses, whose buildings were built prior to stormwater requirements and watershed regulations, the option of expanding if they will capture all the water from the expansion and the existing facility and run it through a stormwater system,” Zenger said.

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“It is a net gain of clean water to the watershed, it gives the business the option of expansion rather than moving and, for municipalities, it keeps jobs and potentially adds jobs.”

The easing of the regulations would be allowed only for nonresidential properties, and remaining “vegetated buffers” — areas planted with vegetation to minimize runoff and help protect water quality — on the properties are preserved in accordance with local requirements.

The legislation allows a developer to skip filing a new site modification plan on certain projects “if the agreement has been completed within the last 15 years and there have been no changes in the permitted use of the property.”

The Sierra Club says the change could hurt water quality because it could change what kind of stormwater controls are required.

“Stormwater runoff from developed areas is important to control so that it doesn’t pollute water that we use for drinking or recreation,” the organization said.

The main Senate change to HB218, submitted by Sen. Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson, is that “stormwater runoff rules and programs shall not require private property owners to install new or increased stormwater controls” when they haven’t removed existing controls on stormwater.

Additional stormwater controls could still be required when the developer is increasing the amount of “impervious surface,” or areas where water can’t seep into the ground.




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Dale Folwell, the state treasurer, is calling for an investigation into the financial statements for the Town of Rural Hall. This comes after three members of Rural Hall Town Council abruptly resigned, along with Town Manager Megan Garner, after an Oct. 21 meeting. The next day, Garner took a position as manager for the city of Graham. The town has filed a court document indicating that it will sue Garner over a six-figure severance package alleged to have been obtained illegally. 

On her first day as city manager for Graham, Megan Garner got sued by her former employer, the Town of Rural Hall. Garner and three council members who resigned after a meeting on Oct. 21 are accused of violating state law and town protocols in negotiating and approving a six-figure severance package. No one on either side has disclosed the amount of the severance package, or settlement agreement, even though state law says it should be a public record. 

Two weeks after three Rural Hall town council members and the town manager resigned, the interim town manager, Frank James, resigned Wednesday. James, who retired in 2017 after 38 years as town manager, came back to resume duties after Megan M. Garner resigned and then took a position as city manager for Graham. On Oct. 21, three council members abruptly resigned after a meeting, citing conflicts among elected officials and what they called harassment and unfounded allegations of financial impropriety lodged againt Garner. State Treasure Dale Folwell has called for an investigation into the town's financial statements as a way to settle the matter once and for all. 

Megan Garner, the former town manager of Rural Hall, is starting her new job as city manager for Graham on Monday. Also on Monday, a lawsuit might be filed by her former employer over an undisclosed six-figure severance package she received. This is just the latest in the turmoil that is ever-evolving in Rural Hall swirling around allegations that $1.5 million vanished from town coffers. But a town audit says no money was missing, but other questions remain, including how much Garner was paid in a settlement agreement. 

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