I would like to hear what everyones take on the new buffer resolution that will be before the Blount County Commission next week.

I know what property owners in my district are saying, in short "another government regulation that is not only placing more restrictions on property that I own, but also requiring financial expenditures by me and then taxing me for the improvements"

What's your take...?

Buffer Resolution Draft



Buffer_Resolution_Draft_2-7-08_(3).pdf134.43 KB

Can you elaborate?

Is there a link to the resolution so we can read up on it?

"I think it would be a good idea."
-Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization


I have added a attachment to the original post of the document as it will be discuss Tuesday in the Public Service Committee.

No Mas! In fact can we go back to 4 meetings per year?

My take is your constituents put the needle on the record. At the end of the day, this will be another one of those things that will be impossible to enforce due to lack of enforcement. Then the "solution" will be to hire more folks to get the job done. Which means bigger government. Which means compounding the problems we already have. Which means, like your constituents are telling you, bad idea.

Why don't you all next session just talk about all the old, gone but not forgotten restaurants and local haunts? Don't you think that thread was more fun?


Here...Here...Definitely more fun..

News to me

How did the property owners in your district even find out about this?

I think it is good of you to get input by the way.


It was discussed and referred back to committee at last months commission meeting...

I think it very important to

I think it very important to have defined Water Quality Buffers.

Blount County has applied for and obtained a NPDES Phase II permit for discharges of stormwater runoff into the waters of the State of Tennessee.

The permit requires that Blount County "develop and implement a set of requirements to establish, protect and maintain water quality buffers in areas of new development and redevelopment."

I cannot say for sure, at this time, if Blount County's proposal is a good proposal. It is a starting point. I would like to know how this proposal compares to proposals from other municipalities that are successful in their good neighbor environment and water quality efforts. How did Blount County decide on these particular requirements?

I think it important for entities with property bordering our waterways to be held responsible for protecting such waterways. I personally have experienced a problem neighbor that was dumping waste into a storm water drain, not only leaving the bank unsightly but possibly adding particulates that could be hazardous to the ground water.

During development of land, I do not think it that hard to regulate. In existing developments, it may be more up to the surrounding land owners to report problems, as I did.

A Mr. Rogers Policy

good neighbor

I think the bizgrrl is on to something here. Personally I don't know anyone who doesn't want to protect our waterways, but general wisdom along with bizgrrls statement confirms it can be an issue. Let's say hypothetically it's 5% of owners who are the problem. If given the opportunity, I think the other 95% would be more than willing to shut down the non law abiding 5%. Why not open an avenue to let citizens do the legwork? If an easy reporting avenue was opened up, I'm sure people would take it. After all, your talking about people's property, which is usually their biggest personal investment.

This is a matter of pollution, not checking water levels. Most likely, the offender would have to been seen polluting or evidence would still have to be around for any type enforcement to occur. Let's say Blount hires three employees to do inspections. Do you know how many waterways they would have to investigate? Thirty people couldn't do it, much less three.

Instead of having the government come marching to our aide again, why not let the citizens help our government out with this one.

Ask a friend in Colorado

This is being sold as protecting our waterways. The question citizens should be asking is; protecting them for who? (link...)

From the proposed resolution;

WHEREAS; the streams and rivers of Blount County supply much of the water required

by citizens for drinking and other municipal and industrial uses, and...

For those still unsure, ask Georgia.

Why should anyone be

Why should anyone be permitted to pollute the common waterways and why should it be up to neighbors to enforce clean water standards? I have had a little experience with a neighbor whom I reported for allowing trash and garbage to blow all over the neighborhood and it was not fun or even safe. There are good reasons we have governments and this is one of them.

..and why should it be up to

..and why should it be up to neighbors to enforce clean water standards?

There are good reasons we have governments and this is one of them.

Do you see it as the government or our government? Are you assuming that the enforcement agents will always be on site when a violation happens?

I no more think government

I no more think government agents always will be on site when there are water quality violations than I think cops always are going to be on site when drunks speed on the highway, but it is still the cops' job to enforce the nodrunksspeeding law and the government's job to enforce clean water standards.

Start another thread

If you saw someone driving drunk, you would not be proactive and call the cops? Enforcement is for those who wear badges and robes, policing is up to all of us.

But, in the interest of keeping this thread free of drunk driving, I think it's best to start another thread if you deem discussing citizen's roles in their government is worthy.

You are the one who brought

You are the one who brought it (citizen's roles in their government)up and of course I would and have called the cops on drunk drivers. But there still has to be a law saying that drunk driving (or excavating too near a stream) is illegal for it to matter whom you call. The drunk driving law is not about whether you are driving recklessly but whether your blood alcohol level is above some legal maximum. The stream protection ordinance should likewise legislate how close is too close and not be relevant only if you have the bad luck for it to rain at the wrong time.

Yee Gads, Mike

what property owners in my district are saying, in short "another government regulation that is not only placing more restrictions on property that I own, but also requiring financial expenditures by me and then taxing me for the improvements"

What on earth is that property owner planning on doing that will result in disturbing more than one acre of land? What financial expenditure? What taxing for improvements?


The way this is all written it will have zero effect on the vast majority of homeowners in Blount County but should go a good ways toward protecting all of us from wholesale development.

The water quality buffer shall apply to all non-residential new developments, modifications to existing developments, and/or redevelopments of any size, orany residential development or redevelopment that will result in a land-disturbing activity that is equal to or greater than one (1) acre and shall establish, protect and maintain water quality buffers along all streams, rivers,
lakes, ponds and wetlands that are located in, or portions of which are located in, the

What on earth is that property owner planning....

Let me state before hand, I know this will be taken the wrong way...

However, the property owner can plan to do whatever he or she wants, it's their property. And if their plan has a negative effect on their neighbor then the initiating owner should have to compensate his or her neighbor.

Don't get me wrong, I along with everyone else (I believe) are for protecting water quality, then let's do that.

Let's not produce a document that allows for personal inturptation by whom ever, which leads to legal action, which results in the judical branch of government to decide what the legislative branches intent is or was.

What's the old saying, keep it simply stupid...or something like that.

How cool it would be

if there were no need for interpretation. As written, this resolution has too many loop holes. Define adjacent. Is it next to or within close range? A person can own land which is not next to community waters but well within the watershed, thus having the power to kill a stream.

Who defines a stream? I sure don't like item K "stream or River" definition so much when it comes down to these simple words- determined by Blount County. Me thinks to the GOP it is a crick and to a Democrat it is a stream.

Me thinks to the GOP it is a

Me thinks to the GOP it is a crick and to a Democrat it is a stream.

Those terms are adequately defined in the resolution, and there is an established body of law Blount Co would have to conform to that properly defines waterways and wetlands.

This looks like a good resolution to me. Since buffers will save the county money it might otherwise spend treating water or paying fines, it makes sense to share those savings with landowners by granting easements on the impacted acreage. A two-stage reduction in property taxes might be appropriate: a mild reduction in the tax rate to compensate for the restricted use, and a significant reduction once a forested buffer is established. Improved water quality and the aesthetic upgrade these buffers would achieve should enhance the general value of Blount Co land and offset the initial drop in property tax collections.

As example of how the property tax reductions might work, consider the ephemeral stream near my house. It traverses two properties. Most of it already complies with the resolution, as it is surrounded by mature forest . The only impairment is an infestation of invasive plants like privet and Japan grass near the road, so that landowner would be entitled to a significant or full reduction in property taxes on the acreage in the buffer zone, which might be an acre or two within his approximately 300-acre holding. Across the road, the stream flows through a cattle farm. There is no vegetated buffer, and cows regularly walk through the streambed. The farmer would qualify for a minor tax break on the buffered acreage (perhaps a fifth of an acre), and if he decided to plant trees and shrubs within the buffer zone and either exclude the cows or build a low-impact crossing, he could earn the full tax reduction.

This looks like a good

This looks like a good resolution to me.

That's all I need to know. If Rikki likes it, I'm all for it.

If Rikki likes it, I'm all

If Rikki likes it, I'm all for it.

Same here.

If Rikki likes it, I'm all

If Rikki likes it, I'm all for it.

That sounds like some sick cult of personality thing.

I just skimmed the thing, but it looks pretty much like a boilerplate NPDES Phase II compliance ordinance. I think it would be even better if the buffer zones were treated like conservation easements, with actual property tax cuts. Protecting water quality provides real value, so let's treat it as such.

PS. I hate speed bumps!

You're far more trusting than I am

There are things in there that just don't seem right but then again, I don't have a great amount of trust in the powers that be...

With Rikki liking it and R liking it and BG liking it....... odds are it won't get passed in full commission but I am glad to hear Rikki weigh in on it.

That sounds like some sick

That sounds like some sick cult of personality thing.

Well, we didn't join the other cult and vote for you for president!

But I defer to you on all things environmental and I'd support your nomination for Interior Secretary or head of the EPA.

PS. I hate speed bumps!Hey,

PS. I hate speed bumps!

Hey, they're not speed bumps! They're traffic CALMING devices.:)

See how CALM I am when talking about it!

And if their plan has a

And if their plan has a negative effect on their neighbor then the initiating owner should have to compensate his or her neighbor.

Who defines negative affect? How does the person get compensation? Through the courts?

I think documents are required to interpret the boundaries of what a person can do or not do to harm my surroundings.

If/when water runs off someone elses property and puts unnecessary amounts of water on my property, who defines what is unnecessary? My neighbor says it's his property and he can do what he wants even though it hurts my property.

I think it very important that our water quality is protected. I think it is very important to protect the quality of our waterways and streams.

Will you tell them that some people want this protection?

Will you....

It has (and I am sure it will be again) been communicated concerning the importance of protecting the quality of the water sources in our county.

Rember though, this only applies to the unincorporated areas of our county. Townsend, Friendsville, Lousiville, Rockford, Maryville and Alcoa are not covered. (Aloca has something similar in place, and Maryville either does or is working on one if memory serves me)

Property Rights

From reading the resolution, if I am correct, this only applies to new development or development on existing property above 1 acre. For most people, including farm owners, we don't develop or change things over 1 acre. Neither my property nor my mother's farm has over an acre touching the creek nor the road (ditch line) although I have close to 10 acres of property and she has near to 30 acres. Neither is planning on being developed or changed.

My question is what big development your constiuents are planning on making that this legislation will effect them? Remember if they sell property to developers, this legislation will fall on the developers of the property not the past owners.

When I built my house I was told that the government would periodically check and make sure that no dirt or gravel ran into the road after a storm. Because of this my driveway is very curvy and later I had it paved. This is just taking that regulation and applying it to the waterways that we all need.
Several years ago when we had a great drought a farmer down the road decided he needed all the creek water to grow hay for his dairy farm. His solution was to pump the creek dry near his hay fields, which of course left other farmers in the area with little to no water. His excuse was "I'm just trying to survive". His survivial at the expense of others was not acceptable and he was finally stopped. I believe this resolution is something of the same.
If you own property, that's great, but you have to be a good steward of the property so that it doesn't hurt your neighbors. "Your rights end where my nose begins." This saying applies everywhere including your district.

same reading

Since we are reading this the same way, let me ask you a farm related question Our-Town. Does the Soil and Water Conservation District not help you in supplying instruction/trees/money/whatever to assist with Greenbelt or even non-greenbelt conservation planning and assistance of your land?

I guess I am asking too if there is assistance available for landowners which is not offered to developers.

On the other hand, there are some big loop holes in the proposal as written and those too need some clearification.

Commissioner Walker, thanks

Commissioner Walker, thanks for bringing this to our attention and for opening up the discussion on it.

Couple of questions.

Who drafted this? It looks like "model" legislation. It looks too detailed and comprehensive for a couple of county commissioners to have worked out on the back of a napkin.

Why has this come up? As noted above, "Blount County has applied for and obtained a NPDES Phase II permit for discharges of stormwater runoff into the waters of the State of Tennessee." What regulated Blount County's stormwater discharge before? Why did we apply for a permit? (Sorry if this is explained in the document, which I think I read all the way through believe it or not.)

Are the parts highlighted in yellow changes from some original draft legislation or the model or whatever this came from?

Why does it allow septic tanks/drain fields in Water Quality Buffer zones?

Other than that, it looks like some pretty comprehensive water quality protection legislation that should be a no brainer for a place like Blount County. I would wholeheartedly support it, as would I'm sure most folks concerned about protecting our environment. My only concern would be how it compares to regulation in other jurisdictions and is it sound environmental policy developed and/or vetted by experts or some kind of minimal attempt to comply with EPA regulations. As I said, it sounds pretty comprehensive to me, but I'm no expert.

As far as enforcement, don't most developments already have to have some sort of environmental inspections as they go along? We watched one go up in our neighborhood, and there were all kinds of notices posted by TDEC and others re. inspections and such. It also looks like they mostly complied with these regulations with regard to water quality buffers and so forth. This is in the city of Alcoa, so maybe they already have such regulations?

As for property owner's rights and all that, nobody has the individual right to pollute or endanger resources that belong to the citizens as a whole.

Couple of questions.....

To be as brief as possible...

The resolution was developed by Blount County Government, Justin Teague, can't remember his correct title, but I will say the Head of the Storm Water Department.

The county passed a cut down version a few years back that, I believe, addressed the "permit for discharges of stormwater runoff".

Septic/drain fields....question has not been asked.

Most developments.....the City of Aloca already has something similar in place....

Sorry to be brief...

no more hearings, right?

This has had it's public hearing and now is just going to go to floor vote at full commission, correct? Changes will have to come between now and the next full CC meeting?


In Public Service tonight and the full commission next week.

similar to Knox County's law

water quality buffer


I was pointed to this discussion by a couple of members of the Tennessee Clean Water Network. After being heavily involved in the Knox County ordinance, perhaps I can shed some light on the questions that were raised.

First, Blount County is required to have a stormwater phase II permit by federal law. There are some requirements in that permit, one of which is the buffer ordinance. This buffer ordinance is indeed rather boilerplate, but sufficient for Blount County. You can, however, make it more strict such as creating a larger buffer if you'd like. No one is denying you that right. You can be more strict, not less so and the buffer requirements are in line with the state's requirements. There are many more requirements of the permit that will be discussed in the coming months. The other larger cities in Blount county may be covered by a phase I permit, which is why this one only applies to the outlying areas.

Second, there were some questions raised about what folks can do on their property and what they cannot. Private property rights do not trump resources that are kept in the public trust. Water is kept in the public trust. Farmers are exempt from almost all of the water quality laws EXCEPT when they destroy a resource that is in the public trust - WATER. So that means no bulldozers or other large equipment in a stream. Eastern water law also provides that the down stream user cannot be hurt by an upstream users actions. So, taking all the water in the creek to survive is not an option under Eastern Water Law and is enforceable at the state and federal level.

Third, there was some discussion about citizen monitoring. We have a program we recently started called Conservation Scene Investigators (CSI) - Stormwater. The program teaches folks how to look at a development site as a stormwater inspector would, sample creeks during storm events (often in the middle of the night) and to interpret laboratory results. It's fun and educational and we've seen good results in Knox County. People can be the eyes and ears of the agencies and you can force them to act, which is what we encourage. Sometimes it can be depressing to turn in developer after developer for water quality violations, but in time, these agencies learn that people do want better, swifter enforcement to keep our waters clean.

And lastly, this ordinance is largely for developers, not farmers. Stormwater is considered a point source pollution, same as industrial pollution coming out of a pipe. Most stormwater runoff goes through a pipe system and then discharges into a creek. Farm runoff is considered non-point source and is not regulated under this permit.

If any of you have any questions, feel free to call over. I'm happy to talk to you.

Renee Hoyos
Executive Director
Tennessee Clean Water Network
Knoxville, TN
865.522.7007 x100

Thanks Renee!

Thanks for the info Renee.

The Committee's Vote last night

As best as I can understand it the Committee passed this resolution last night- with changes. Details should be available this weekend when the full commission packet goes on-line.

The 35 foot buffer zone for waters which are not either impaired nor on the high quality list was lowered to five feet. As I understand this, the federal mandate is only directed towards the impaired and high quality waters. The Tennessee River, the Little TN and Baker's Creek are just a few of the Blount County waters listed in the State's 303d list as being impaired.

The State's 303d list is updated every two years so the most current listing is for 2006. TN State 303d list (link...)

Use the search feature for Blount because some streams flow through multiple counties so they are all not listed together.

Much more will be happening with this whole thing so I hope both Rikki and Renee will keep us informed and help to cut down some of the confusion.

Tennessee Clean Water Network (link...)
Hellbender Press (link...)

Buffer reduction

Well, this is really too bad that the buffer was lowered. My thinking, and I'll have to get a policy person on this, is that if there are tributaries to the rivers on the 303d list or the high quality list, they count too and the buffer cannot be reduced for them either.

Regardless, you have the ability and right to demand a higher level of protection and you should do so at the next commission meeting. Remember, the permit does not apply to farmers, only developers. Considering the kind of mud a poorly maintained development can generate, the bigger buffer the better or all of the streams in your county will be put on the 303d list eventually.

Farmers suffer the worst from poor development practices. Especially when they are surrounded on all sides by encroaching development. This buffer rule helps them keep their streams clean so that they can water cattle and crops. If you can find a few farmers and persuade them to talk at commission on this issue, it would be effective. Non-traditional partners are the key to these struggles.

Sadly, I'll be out of town and unable to attend the commission meeting. If I can be of help in any other way, let me know.


Update, agenda for Thursday's Commission meeting


The newly rewritten resolution is found on pages 27 through 39. Interesting in the fact that it appears all references to the 65 foot buffer for high quality or impaired waters have been removed.

a. If state and/or federal regulatory buffer requirements are not applicable, then a minimum buffer width of five (5) feet shall apply.


5 foot buffer

Hmmm... my guess here is that in the absence of a federal or state mandate, the county can put whatever buffer length they want. Five feet is nothing and if the community wants to protect water quality, you should be prepared to go to the mat on this one. My guess is development interests got a hold of the resolution and have tweaked it. Did this get a public vetting? If not, cry foul and make them reestablish the previous buffer and put the reduction of the buffer to public debate. This may need some sunshine.

Remember: the county can be as protective as it wants. You need to let your commissioners know that a large buffer is important to the community, that you all vote and that developers will not be allowed to pollute your streams. Get as many people to Thurs's meeting as you can and get them to sign up to speak in support of a 65-foot buffer for all streams if this is what you want. Simply blogging on this issue will not be enough.

Good luck. I wish I were here, but I'll be out of town. Please let me know the outcome.



Should the resolution recognize the difference between a stream that is 2 foot wide and one that is 60+ foot wide? As it related to the buffer? Should a 60 foot buffer be required on both?


5 foot buffer

No. The resolution should have a consistent buffer no matter to the size of the stream. Small streams carry an amazing amount of water and the more protection you can give them, the better. Don't let developers tell you they are just crummy streams flowing only in response to rain. These small streams provide enormous quantity of water when they do run. In this time of drought can we afford to be cavalier about our water supply? I'd say no.

Big streams come from small streams. If we sacrifice them to the gods of development, we can say goodby to big streams like the Little River which ran dry last year. Any threat to small streams will adversely affect big streams where we get our drinking water from.

I hope this helps.


I agree with Renee. Big

I agree with Renee. Big streams come from small ones.

State buffer requirements

The original version stated-

Section 3, A.

The water quality buffer width shall follow state and/or federal regulatory buffer zone and / or riparian buffer zone requirements. As set forth in the TN Constuction General permit No TNR 1000 " a sixty foot natural riparian buffer..."

My question remains that by removing the state / federal regulations from the resolution it does nothing to stop those requirements. Correct?

The county is still responsible to enforce those state requirements, correct?

It's not always about development...

I understand your concern related to development but this does not. It does have to do with several in my district whose property this would not apply to, unless they decided to divide off a acre or 2 of property for their children and then it could result in the impact of several acres of property even though there is no development (in the definition many are accustom to) being done.

Example, a piece of property is sided by streams on 3 of 4 sides, the way the resolution is currently drafted, my understanding is if someone give (subdivided) property off for a child then all property would come under this new restriction. 65 foot on each side of a 2 foot stream would result in the lose of use of several acres of property even though there was no development,yet they would still have to pay taxes on the property.

Maybe I am misunderstanding the definitions that are included within the resolution, maybe I'm not. Maybe there needs to be clarification on the definitions.

(It's kinda funny, everyone assumes that when some one has concerns related to property it is automatically assumed that the developers have gotten hold of them. It needs to be realized that this is not always the case.)

Thanks for your input.

Hey Mike-

Just one simple question. Do you think those property owners will disturb one full acre of land when they build a new home? A full acre?


Again, it depends on the definitions that are contained within the resolution. Distrubing an acre, grading, no probably not. However, the definition of development that was used during discussion was the subdividing of land, so does that mean that if a person cuts a acre off a 50 acre tract that is not adjacent to water, but the other 49 acres is, does it now fall under this resolution?

This above is what is of concern to me. And another thing, the Little River Watershed was not included on the development of this resolution. The one group that has access to the experts as it related to water quality.

were there any public hearings on this?

Were there any public hearings on this?

I will bet these terms apply to land-disturbance - clearing, grading or excavation

Public Hearings...

There were no Public Hearings, it has been discussed at last months commission meeting and this months IG committee meeting.

My point is that if you have 1 acre of property and you distrub 1/2 acre, you gotta have somewhere to put the 1/2 acre you have cleared or graded, therefore you have have distrubed 1 acre.

Well, the point is that

Well, the point is that however you subdivide it and whoever you give it to and whatever ends up getting built on it, is to protect the quality of streams and riparian habitat. Why should there be exceptions for gifts and private building v. purchase and commercial/residential development?


Should it apply to the property that is being built on or both the property that is being built on and the orginal tract which would be undistrubed as well?


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