Bad stuff#8217; out of regulations By Jennipher Dickens 07/24/2008 WINTON – A public announcement was made here Monday night that’s sure to be a relief to many counties in northeastern North Carolina,

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2008

WINTON – A public announcement was made here Monday night that’s sure to be a relief to many counties in northeastern North Carolina, including three in the Roanoke-Chowan region.

Joe McClees, President of McClees Consulting Firm, an established lobbying group, came before the Hertford County Commissioners during their regular meeting to release the good news.

&uot;I came here before you tonight to let you know the latest update on your concerns over the proposed stormwater regulations which would negatively impact counties in the area,&uot; McClees told the board.

He continued, &uot;We were successful in getting 80 percent of the bad stuff out and the results of those efforts now sits on the governor’s desk waiting for his signature.&uot;

In April, Hertford and other counties in the region hired McClees’ firm to help block changes suggested by the Environmental Management Commission (EMC). The EMC had adopted amendments that would have taken affect July 1 unless the North Carolina General Assembly stopped them.

Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill was instrumental in bringing the proposed changes to other counties’ attention.

He appeared before the Bertie and Hertford County commissioners in April to tell both boards of his concerns.

The EMC suggested changes that would have required each house on lots over 15,000 feet to take up no more than 12 percent of the lot, or homeowners would have had to spend thousands of dollars controlling stormwater drainage.

The reason behind the EMC’s concerns was due to the acreage of shellfish waters lost to closure in the last 20 years; however, Spruill said the inland counties such as Bertie, Hertford, Gates and his home county of Beaufort have little to do with shellfish.

&uot;While an increase in the closure of shellfish acreage is somewhat pronounced in the more urban southeastern coastal counties, the increase in closure is practically nonexistent in the more rural northeastern coastal counties,&uot; Spruill told the Hertford County Commissioners in April.

During that same meeting, County Manager Loria Williams spoke of the way it would impact her county.

&uot;This will have a negative impact on development in Hertford County,&uot; she said. &uot;We are positive, 100 percent certain the rules are stringent and will change the way we do business.&uot;

Hertford County Commissioner Jonnie R. Farmer also expressed concerns over the proposed regulations.

In April, he stated, &uot;These regulations would put a strain on construction and will put a strain on our citizens.&uot;

Farmer added, &uot;Because we’re part of CAMA (Coastal Area Management Association), our citizens are being treated the same as if they were building a beach house in Dare County. It’s unnecessary.&uot;

Hertford County voted then to approve $8,500 toward hiring McClees’ services in order to help get the rules changed, while Bertie County contributed $7,000.

Now, three months later, it seems as if those contributions have paid off.

During this Monday’s meeting, Henri McClees, also of McClees Consulting, told the board, &uot;It came out to be what I consider a success… nobody likes it, so that makes it a good compromise.

You’ve done well by your citizens.&uot;

Several commissioners expressed relief that the deal is all but done.

Now all that remains is for Governor Mike Easley to sign the new regulations, but no one seems to expect a veto.

&uot;It would not be in the citizens’ best interest to veto that bill,&uot; Joe McClees noted.

Contacted by telephone on Wednesday, Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb said he was pleased at the outcome of the negotiations.

&uot;We’re pleased that our legislative efforts were for the most part successful, and we appreciate that the (North Carolina) General Assembly listened to the concerns of the counties in eastern N.C. and were able to amend the rules in a way that is practical and fair,&uot; he stated.

In a later phone interview, McClees explained, &uot;We made it so it’s not cost-prohibitive now to mitigate stormwater.

We spent 13-16 weeks with environmentalists on one side, the state legislature on the other and us in the middle.&uot;

He continued, &uot;In coastal and eastern North Carolina, development is adding to the economy and in many places it drives the economy.

This country is in a recession and when you’re in one you need to be extremely careful about doing away with people’s livelihoods.

Sure, we want to be friendly to the environment but you have to let people live, too.&uot;