Members of the Loudon County Commission decided not to comply
with a state-mandated program regarding the proposed water
quality buffer and now face the possibility of fines.
County Planning Director Russ Newman presented the final draft
of the local resolution to members of the commission Monday
Commissioners Austin Shaver, Brian Jenkins, Harold Duff, Earlena
Maples and Roy Bledsoe voted against adopting the requirements.
Commissioner Don Miller "very reluctantly" made the motion to
approve the water quality buffer resolution, to avoid being
fined as much as $10,000 from the state. Votes in favor were
also cast by Bob Franke, Steve Harrelson and Sharon Yarbrough,
each expressing they did not agree with the state-mandated
program, but felt obligated to pass it to avoid being fined.
The buffer is required as part of the county's National
Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which requires
communities operating a small municipal separate storm sewer
system (MS4) to regulate the discharge of pollutants.
It affects an area north of Martel Road and south of Highway 70
outside of the Lenoir City city limits, which is the only
portion of the county with the population density to require the
water quality buffer. Areas inside Lenoir City are the city's
The buffer only affects land being developed and exempts land
used for agricultural purposes.
The proposed resolution uses the minimum requirements set by the
state. They include a buffer with a minimum width of 30 feet
measured horizontally from the top of the bank for drainage
areas less than one square mile and 60 feet for those with
drainage areas greater than one square-mile.
The county has been out of compliance with the stream buffer
requirements for years, but has been given time by the state to
implement a local resolution, Newman said.
Three years ago the state made the buffer a requirement for
local governments. In 2009, during the state's routine
monitoring, officials with the Tennessee Department of
Environment and Conservation made the county aware they needed
to adopt a water quality buffer resolution.
"At that point that was one of the issues they identified in
their monitoring," Newman said.
The state did not fine the county at that point, but gave them
some time to draft and pass a local resolution. "They've had a
couple of different opportunities to adopt a regulation," Newman
The amount of the fine may vary if assessed, but neighboring
Blount County was previously fined $10,000 for failing to comply
with the requirements.
Miller said paying a fine for failing to comply with a state
mandate is not a good use of taxpayer money.
The program started on the federal level, and was passed down to
the state and eventually to local governments. Shaver said he
was voting against the resolution because at some point local
governments have to push back when asked to implement programs
they do not agree with.
It was the first of two times Monday Shaver took a stand against
the federal government. He cast the lone vote in opposition to
accepting a $250,000 federal stimulus grant, which would be used
to build a new track at Loudon High School.
"I'm voting against this solely in opposition to the federal
stimulus package and I want to make that clear," he said.
The water quality buffer resolution states the buffer should be
a mature strip of undisturbed native vegetation and grasses.
Commissioners expressed they believe the requirements amount to
the government taking away a portion of landowners' properties
without compensation. The draft includes a density compensation
aspect, which would give developers an opportunity to divide
their projects into the same number of lots as though no land
had been designated to the buffer.
"Loudon County is currently in noncompliance with their MS4
permit and the corrective action plan that they submitted
earlier this year on the buffer requirement," said Tisha
Calabrese-Benton, a spokesperson for TDEC. "We'll be looking
again after their next meeting in January and evaluating their
That gives the County Commission one more month to change their
The county's corrective action plan is a response provided by
then-County Mayor Doyle Arp to TDEC addressing violations
brought to the county's attention by the state agency in April,
In the response, Arp requests the timeframe for completing
amendments to the stormwater resolution be extended to within 90
days of the issuance of the county's new MS4 permit. Newman said
the state has not issued the permit yet, and expects them to in
"We are not out of compliance with what we told them we would
do," he said.
Calabrese-Benton said she cannot speculate specifically on what
might occur if the county remains out of compliance in January.
"At that point the division of water pollution control would
have to decide what the best action is to help compel compliance
with the permit," she said.
Generally speaking she said TDEC can issue a notice of violation
enforcement which could carry civil penalties. "I can't
speculate on what we would use in this case," she said.