HUNTERSVILLE – Striking a balance between clean water and bringing in new development will be a major talking point in Huntersville commissioners’ May 30 meeting regarding water quality standards.
Commissioner Ron Julian called for the discussion during the board’s May 20 meeting. He said Huntersville’s water-quality standards are higher and more strict than those in Charlotte, Davidson and Cornelius.
The result? Developers may not want to bring projects to Huntersville because of the cost associated with taking extra precautions to meet the town’s water standards.
Julian estimated developers could have to pay $80,000 in rain gardens – holes which allow rainwater runoff from impervious areas – or other products in order to properly develop an acre of land in Huntersville.
“The state’s standards are more lax than Mecklenburg County’s, which are more lax than Huntersville’s,” Julian said. “The higher water standards have led developers to put in bioretention ponds (rain gardens) and sand filters, and that's costing them money. Plus it takes extra space to do it.”
The water-quality standards in question relate to how water that falls on land is treated and how much sediment and chemicals can be included in the water. Huntersville’s water source is at Blythe Landing.
Julian said he hopes town leaders can strike a balance between safe drinking water and standards that won’t scare developers into other towns, thereby robbing Huntersville of potential development.
“Water quality is a complicated situation,” he said. “Multiple factors go into what the developer has to do (with Huntersville’s standards): How much impervious or pervious space. Higher requirements equate to spending more money.”
Town Planning Director Jack Simoneau said Huntersville adopted the water-quality standards in 2003 “because non-point source pollutants associated with development in the McDowell Creek basin had significantly degraded water quality. That water flows into Mountain Island Lake and is just upstream of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's drinking water intake serving (more than) 770,000 residents.”
Huntersville's elected officials, Simoneau added, determined to apply water-quality standards over the entire zoning and subdivision jurisdiction and not just the McDowell Creek Basin so as to prevent future water quality degradation throughout the town.
Julian said some Huntersville businesses had to install retention tanks or sand filters at their sites to meet the town’s requirements.
“We need to make sure we’re not setting a standard that’s larger than our neighbors, therefore driving development from our town into others,” he said. “They’re set to reduce chemicals which would go into our lake and our drinking water source. I care a lot about our water. We just need to find a balance.”
Simoneau said the standards may not impact developers as much as some may think.
“I am not aware of any instance in the 10 years since the ordinance has been adopted that someone has decided to not locate their project in Huntersville because of water-quality standards,” he said.
“That said, we must always be looking for ways to stay competitive in terms promoting economic development and maintaining a high quality of life.”
Julian added the May 30 meeting should provide clarity on what town leaders can do to find that balance.
“This is a good subject that the community should care about,” he said.