Urgent Action Item: 4″ Topsoil Rule
If you have any involvement in home building, you need to be aware of this. Back in 2012, the DNR adopted a rule requiring developers and builders who hold a required stormwater “General Permit No. 2” to put 4 inches of topsoil back on a finished construction site. The DNR wanted runoff reduction since topsoil sponges up water that runs swiftly off hard clay.
The rule makes development costs prohibitive, so several of your fellow members approached Governor Branstad and he signed the Governor’s Executive Order 80. A “stakeholder” group was formed in order for the DNR to revisit it. The stakeholder group includes our own Creighton Cox, executive director of the Greater Des Moines HBA; Hubbell Realty’s Joe Pietruszynski; Chip Classon of Jerry’s Homes; Mark Watkins, vice president of McAnich Corp., a Des Moines earthmoving contractor; Lucy Hershberger of Forever Green Nursery in Coralville; Pat Sauer of the Iowa Stormwater Education Program; and Chad Ingels, a member of the state Environmental Protection Commission appointed to that panel by Branstad.
The goal of the group is to come up with a recommendation to the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission regarding the rule terminology. As part of this initiative, DNR is receiving public comments regarding the 4″ requirement until May 29th. To date, there have been dozens of comments saying that the 4″ requirement should stay in place with virtually no comments saying that it needs to be changed to simply match the federal language. We would like to see the 4″ language struck from the rule and replaced with language taken directly from the federal rule.
We are asking that as many of our members email comments IN YOUR OWN WORDS as soon as possible, since the meeting is May 29. Even a one paragraph comment would be incredibly helpful. While you should each decide what to put in your comments, here are a few insights:
- Developers and builders are already heavily regulated when it comes to storm water runoff requirements. These are expensive and time consuming requirements that have been followed for years with great success, not just in Iowa but around the country.
- The federal rule requires that a builder or developer “unless infeasible, preserve topsoil.” There appears to be a misconception that builders/developers routinely strip the site of topsoil and then sell it or ship it off to other sites. This simply isn’t true. It is our understanding that, unless the soil cannot physically remain on the site (such as when doing building development in a downtown), topsoil is retained within the plat and used where it will serve the best purpose for the development.
- The federal rule does not, in any way, address the issue of how many inches of topsoil is required at any particular location. It simply says “unless infeasible, preserve topsoil.” A requirement that compels the builder/developer to maintain a certain number of inches at a particular location goes well beyond the federal requirement.
- The 4″ requirement is extremely difficult and costly to satisfy. When the 4″ requirement was implemented last year, we estimated that the additional cost of compliance would be about $300 – $400 per lot. After a year of implementation, we have discovered that the actual cost of the requirement is more than 10 times that original estimate – and in some places as high as $5,000 per lot. Since all of the topsoil is left on site, the additional cost of dictating exactly where the topsoil gets placed is an unnecessary impediment to affordable housing. This is especially true at a time that the industry is trying to get back on its feet.
We highly encourage you to write to Adam Schnieders [DNR] Adam.Schnieders@dnr.iowa.gov and tell the DNR, in your own words, why the 4″ requirement should not be maintained and why the insertion of the federal language is a reasonable alternative that satisfies all of the requirements imposed by the law while protecting the environment at a cost that allows affordable housing. If you would like to attend the meeting in person (the best method!), please let Jay Iverson know.
2012 International Energy Conservation Code – Residential Construction
June 1 is rapidly approaching – the date when all new houses in Iowa must meet the minimum requirements of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (2012 IECC). Click here for a copy of State of Iowa Chapter 303, Rule 661-303.2(103A). For a nice overview of what it means to you and your customers, click here.
The Cedar Rapids HBA and the Iowa City HBA held a joint membership meeting together last week, the first time in history (or anytime in recent memory). It was an excellent networking event, held in Solon at Lake Macbride Golf Club. Over 100 members gathered for the event.