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Stormwater fee program extended 3 years

gavelCharlotte City Council on Monday night approved a three-year extension of a stormwater mitigation fee program for redevelopment projects across the city.

The city staff had originally recommended an extension of five years to the fee-in-lieu program, but reduced it after the council heard public comments on the matter in September. The hot-button issue pitted developers against environmentalists, causing the city to recommend the program’s temporary continuance while stakeholder groups evaluate other options. The ordinance will now run through Dec. 31, 2017.

The city’s post-construction controls ordinance, which became law in 2008, requires stormwater mitigation on development sites to protect water quality. In the original ordinance, companies redeveloping properties in disadvantaged neighborhoods and near transit stations were permitted to pay a fee instead of installing runoff controls, such as retention ponds. But in 2011, the city extended the program to allow developers to pay the fee on redevelopment projects across Charlotte in an effort to boost the economy.

At Monday’s meeting, seven council members voted in favor of the extension and four dissented.  Those voting against the extension were Democrats Patsy Kinsey, John Autry, LaWana Mayfield and Al Austin. Mayor Dan Clodfelter was not present.

Kinsey said she voted in favor of the ordinance in 2008, as well as its extension in 2011. This time, she said, she would vote against the proposal. “We need to make a decision and move on,” she said.

Citing environmental concerns, Austin said council members needed to think about the Earth, Charlotte and children.

But Republicans Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs disagreed. Smith said he would compromise and vote for the three-year extension but would rather have the plan last for five years.  Driggs said he would vote for the three-year extension because it would “allow development that might not occur” otherwise.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes, a Democrat, said he was in support of the continuance because “having all the interested parties getting together over the next six to nine months is in the best interests of Charlotte.”

At the public hearing in September, some Charlotte residents opposed the extension of the fee in lieu plan, citing pollution to the city’s watersheds. They said the best way to control pollution, such as oil, gas and other chemicals, is at its source, as opposed to treating dirty streams at a later date. They said onsite control should be required.

Real estate developers countered that the program applies only to redevelopment sites. Some of them, they said, are currently 100% impervious and cause more environmental problems than newly developed land.

The stakeholder group will be made up of environment and development industry interests. It will be charged with developing a recommendation for a permanent solution to allow a mitigation fee option and under what circumstances it can be applied, and to determine what other mitigation measures, such as catch basin inserts, could be used. The council’s Environmental Committee will monitor the progress of the group. The process will begin in January and has a goal to conclude by September 2015.

The mitigation fees collected are used by the city to make system improvements within the same drainage basin as the development, and range from stream bank restoration to the purchase of private property in floodplains. The city charges developers $60,000 per redeveloped acre in mitigation fees. On projects that are outside of disadvantaged neighborhoods and away from transit stations, the fee jumps to $90,000 per acre on everything after the first acre.

In other actions:

*The council unanimously approved the annexation of a 97.8-acre vacant plot in the 6200 block of Dixie River Road in the Berewick development in southwest Charlotte. The land is part of the Inverness enclave at Berewick.  D.R. Horton of Fort Worth, Texas, plans to build 300 single-family detached homes on the property.  The Berewick development, on hundreds of acres near Shopton Road West and Steele Creek Road, includes a residential-retail-office “town center.” Pappas Properties is the manager of Dixie River Land Co., which is developing the project.

*The council unanimously approved a plan to expand the areas in Charlotte covered by the city’s Business Corridor Revitalization Program. The framework seeks to improve the physical and economic conditions within five priority business corridors:  Rozzelles Ferry Road;  Beatties Ford Road; North Tryon Street; the area surrounding Freedom Drive, Wilkinson Boulevard and Morehead Street; and the Eastland area. In September, the city staff recommended an expansion of the area, which will now include South Boulevard and a stretch of Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road. The revitalization program includes matching grants available to businesses within the corridor for façade improvements, security, brownfield assessments, big-box demolition and business-association support. In February, the City Council referred the program to the Housing and Neighborhood Development Committee, seeking ways to broaden the participation in the grant program to include property owners who are unable to cover 100 percent of the upfront costs, as is currently required. Items related to the strategy referral will be discussed at future committee meetings.

 

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