Is your condominium or community association required to manage a stormwater system? This can be a tricky issue to navigate.
In 1991, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (DWQ) established stormwater management regulations to efficiently and effectively protect the state’s surface water and groundwater. With the creation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), there is a North Carolina agency that manages stormwater permitting, processing and inspections.
Since DENR and these regulations were established, new condominium or community developments have been required to obtain a permit regarding stormwater systems. If you are not new and your association is not required to have a permit, your community common areas and individual lots must still comply with all stormwater regulations, including those from 1991. In addition to these state regulations, municipalities may have their own requirements.
Stormwater runoff is generated from rain and snow melt events that flow over land or impervious surfaces (such as paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops) and do not soak into the ground. This runoff picks up pollutants such as trash, chemicals, oils, dirt and sediment that can harm our rivers, streams, lakes and coastal waters. This is critical in a watershed area like Wilmington.
When developers are submitting a new condominium or community development plan, they must provide engineering plans and calculations to obtain a N.C. Stormwater Permit. A fully designed stormwater system may include retention ponds, swales, pipes, erosion control and other infrastructure. When a stormwater permit is issued, it also includes operational and maintenance guidelines, known as Best Management Practices (BMPs). Property owners and condominium or community associations must adhere to all BMPs. The maintenance requirements in stormwater permits differ; therefore, it is important to refer to the specific community’s issued permit to ensure compliance.
A stormwater system is installed and should be maintained by the developer of the community until such time as the community members take control of their association. DENR usually requires that the majority of the board of directors be elected by the membership and that they then approve acceptance before a stormwater permit may be transferred to the name of the condominium or community association.
The permit-transfer process occurs best when the association’s board of directors and the developer work together. Developers should provide as-built stormwater plans, a completed application for permit transfer, and an engineer’s letter. The engineer’s letter documents that the system was designed and constructed in accordance with the approved plans and permit, and that it is currently in substantial compliance.
It is a good idea for the board of directors representing the association to hire an engineer to review the transfer documentation and inspect the stormwater system on behalf of the association. The engineer should also provide an opinion before the approval and submission of the transfer documents. DENR will provide an on-site inspection of the system as part of the permit transition to the association. You will also need to read and understand your stormwater permit to see if and when your association may need to renew the permit.
A big misnomer is that a stormwater system is constructed to deal with flooding. This is not the case. Stormwater systems are developed with the intent and requirement to retain the sediment and provide pollution-free water to adjacent public waters.
There are professional stormwater maintenance companies that provide expert maintenance, oversight of the stormwater facilities, and written documentation as required by DENR. These third-party professional companies provide monthly, quarterly or annual inspections, reports and maintenance as required in the permits.
Depending on the size of your community and the complexity of its stormwater system, you may need to set aside funds in your reserve to provide swale and pond bank erosion control, pump replacements, holding tanks, pipes, dams, sediment removal from ponds, stormwater outfall structures and other stormwater controls.
A professional community association management company will recommend that these components be included in a professional reserve study.
Questions about your community's stormwater management plan? Reach out to the experts at CAMS today at 877.672.2267 for trusted guidance.