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Reducing stormwater runoff may run down property values

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The state's Environmental Management Commission is trying to clean up our waterways. The problem is it may be at home owners' expense. This past week the Commission passed rules that limit development in all twenty coastal counties. Those rules included increasing the buffer zone between new development and the water from thirty to fifty feet. Environmentalists say the new regulations will help the environment. "The larger a buffer you have, the more time the water has to settle out the pollutants before it gets into the waters that we're trying to protect," said Dr. Mike Mallin, a Marine Science Professor at UNCW. Dr. Malin says more development inevitably brings more roads, sidewalks and driveways, surfaces transmit chemicals into our waterways more quickly. That problem--more commonly known as storm water runoff--has hurt shellfish populations and caused other environmental concerns. But while the proposed regulations might help the environment, they create new concerns for developers and property owners. "If you have a piece of land and you have a lot of wetlands on it and you're along the waterways, your land is going to be less valuable because there's less built upon area," said David Spetrino, a builder and developer in Wilmington. Spetrino says he's in favor of the new regulations but adds that they're also going to make home building more difficult. "They're a step in the right direction to have a better quality water," Spetrino said. "The bad news is it does make living where we live more challenging, especially when it comes to redeveloping property and that's an offset we're all going to have to work through." Dr. Mallin also said that the amount of vegetation between development and water is also crucial to reducing the amount of pollution transmitted. He said buffers like grass and shrubs will help slow runoff. The state's Homebuilder Association opposes the new rules. The state legislature still needs to review the rules before they're passed.

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