Land Disturbance Program Explanation

Frequently Asked Questions about the Land Disturbance Program 

What is a land disturbance permit?

A Land Disturbance Permit is a document required by the State of Missouri for construction sites that disturb large amounts of land. The state issues a permit for certain sites, and the City of Moberly also has its own Land Disturbance Permits for large sites inside the City limits.

When is a permit needed?

Not all sites need a land disturbance permit. Sites with Land Disturbance Permits are held to a higher standard, including requirements for regular self-inspections. These requirements would be burdensome for small projects, such as a homeowner building a shed in their backyard. At the same time, it’s important to have greater accountability for larger projects that can have severe impacts on neighboring and downstream properties. Currently, Land Disturbance permits are required for large projects, such as those that disturb more than an acre of land.  

One thing that often confuses people is that Land Disturbance Permits are required for all sites that disturb land if they’re part of a “common plan of development” that will disturb more than an acre or create more than an acre of impervious surface. This means that large projects can’t avoid being held accountable for their stormwater impacts by only building a little at a time.  

Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation to help explain this requirement: Imagine that a new college wanted to open a campus in Moberly. We know that this campus would eventually involve a lot of buildings that would cause a lot of runoff and potential pollution. If no stormwater controls were installed, this campus would eventually cause a lot of runoffs from roofs, parking lots, sidewalks, awnings, and other impervious surfaces. Streams and drainage ditches downstream would eventually wash out and start to erode people’s yards or property. But let’s imagine that the campus will build slowly, only building one building at a time so that they never disturb more than half an acre at a time. The city needs to create a policy that can be applied equally to everyone, that can hold the hypothetical new campus accountable for their runoff and won’t cause an undue burden to ordinary people trying to install gardens or add a wing onto their house.  

The solution is to evaluate projects as part of a “common plan of development” instead of looking at them in isolation. This imaginary campus may be built one building at a time, but all the buildings would be for the same project and owned and maintained by the same entity (the college in this case). The first half acre building might be able to avoid a land disturbance permit, and a second building that might only disturb a quarter acre might also be able to avoid the stricter permit. But as soon as the college built a building that pushed the combined footprint of the project over one (1) acre, they would need to apply for a land disturbance permit, and they wouldn’t be able to build until it was granted. This would also require them to do all sorts of reviews on the impact of their project on the city stormwater system and might require them to create permanent stormwater detention ponds or other structures to reduce their downstream impact. This is a hypothetical example; but any time anybody builds a project that has a combined footprint of more than an acre, they have to apply for a land disturbance permit and go through the review process.

How do I get a permit?

To get a Land Disturbance Permit, you need to apply with the Utility Department. Land Disturbance Permits have a base fee of $250.00 for sites between one (1) and two (2) acres. Every additional full acre on the site will raise the cost by $25.00. Partial acres are not counted. 

Before a Land Disturbance Permit can be approved the plans for the building need to be submitted to the city for review, along with a plan to keep the dirt, trash, and chemicals from washing off the site (called a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan or SWPPP)The site may also be required to take steps to keep additional runoff from causing problems downstream. These plans should all be approved by a certified engineer, and the details about specific requirements can be found in the city Land Disturbance Manual and the Post Construction Manual at https://www.moberlymo.org/214/Stormwater . 

What do I need to do after I have a permit?

After a permit has been granted, the person who is responsible for the site needs to check on it on a regular basis (at least every two weeks and after heavy rain) and make a record of what they found during their inspection. The person responsible for the site must make sure it follows the approved SWPPP and that any problems with the site get fixed. The city will also perform monthly inspections for accountability and email the results to the person responsible for the site. 

How can I close a permit?

When construction is finished, the soil is stabilized, and all stormwater controls have been removed, contact the Utility Department to schedule a closing inspection. If the closing inspection doesn’t find any stormwater or erosion problems, the permit will be closed.

This article is meant to be a brief explanation of the program: it is not comprehensive or legally binding. For more information, please refer to the manuals on the stormwater tab of the city website https://www.moberlymo.org/214/Stormwater .