Politics & Government

Sedgwick County rolls back stormwater rules in rural areas

From left, Sedgwick County Commissioners Tim Norton, Karl Peterjohn, Jim Howell, Richard Ranzau and Dave Unruh.
From left, Sedgwick County Commissioners Tim Norton, Karl Peterjohn, Jim Howell, Richard Ranzau and Dave Unruh. File photo

The Sedgwick County Commission voted to exempt unincorporated, rural areas from a part of its stormwater management code that protects water quality in rivers and streams.

The stormwater management code requires certain construction sites and developers to have water pollution prevention plans, said Deputy Public Works Director Jim Weber. They have to install and pay for stormwater quality improvements to prevent that pollution, Weber said.

That includes things like grading sites so runoff seeps into vegetation and not into drainage ditches.

Those rules had applied countywide, including to the unincorporated areas outside Wichita and smaller cities like Derby and Haysville

Commissioners voted 4-1 in a special Monday meeting to apply those requirements just to urban areas. Commissioner Tim Norton voted no.

There are about 10 stormwater permit applications in the county per year, Weber said.

Commissioner Richard Ranzau has pushed for reducing the regulated area to the urbanized areas, which is all that’s required by the Environmental Protection Agency. He also said he doubted the regulations do much to protect stormwater quality.

We’ve been over-regulating a large portion of our community unnecessarily.

Richard Ranzau, Sedgwick County commissioner

“We are not required by EPA to impose certain regulations in the (unincorporated) area,” Ranzau said. “So we’ve been over-regulating a large portion of our community unnecessarily.

“This is not going to harm our community or lessen our commitment to stormwater quality,” he added. “By removing unnecessary regulatory burdens, I think it’s actually a good thing.”

“We are trying to create a more positive, pro-growth environment,” Commissioner Karl Peterjohn added.

Members of the Stormwater Management Advisory Board, including Derby City Manager Kathy Sexton, voted in September to retain the current regulations by 11-1.

People were pretty clear they didn’t understand why we would make our regulations more lax.

Kathy Sexton, Derby City manager

“People were pretty clear they didn’t understand why we would make our regulations more lax,” Sexton said. “Any lessening of the county’s commitment to good stormwater management is a bad idea.”

Resident Lonny Wright said commissioners were again ignoring an advisory board vote, comparing it to the county’s votes on deregulating rural wastewater inspections and a recent change in plumbing code.

Ranzau said commissioners listen to advisory board recommendations the majority of the time.

“On occasion, we do differ on opinion, and that’s OK,” Ranzau said. “(But) ultimately, we are responsible for the decisions.”

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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