JAUNT Aims to Reduce Water Runoff, Bills

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The first bills for Charlottesville's stormwater utility fee will arrive for city property owners one year from this month. It will cost $1.20 a month for every 500 square feet of hard surface, but some property owners are finding ways to hopefully get a break on their bills. 

A parking lot of puzzle pieces is solving a potentially expensive problem for Charlottesville's JAUNT. 

"Pretty simple theory and approach to stormwater management," said Brad Sheffield, assistant director of JAUNT. 

The regional transit system expanded its parking lot without putting down more pavement and drains. Instead, crews installed an interlocked permeable surface that filters rain into a basin of rocks, four to six feet deep. The basin can hold up to 11 inches of rain per hour.

"The water has time to settle into the ground, and it doesn't run off anywhere," Sheffield said. 

Sheffield expects this environmentally friendly investment will reduce the agency's anticipated $1,600 city stormwater utility bill. 

"Just putting this parking lot in cost us nothing in addition to if we put an asphalt lot in, but long-term it will save us about $500 a year in the stormwater utility fee," Sheffield said. 

Projects like the lot could receive credits when the city starts charging the fee in January. 

"It's not about making it stop raining. It's about trying to manage and handle a water resource differently than has traditionally been done," said Kristel Riddervold, city environmental administrator. 

The city is also considering an incentive program for stormwater improvements like planting trees. But the details are still in development. 

"The program needs revenue in order to deliver on the commitments that it's made, but we also want to encourage good stewardship on individual properties," Riddervold said. 

A panel of stakeholders will work out the details of a credit or incentive plan this summer. 

The city will also update its database with new aerial images to calculate the stormwater fee based on the latest property information.