Stormwater ordinance changes approved

Higher mitigation fees offset by environmental gains

By: David Dykes//March 15, 2016//

Stormwater ordinance changes approved

Higher mitigation fees offset by environmental gains

By: David Dykes//March 15, 2016//

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The Charlotte City Council approved revisions to a post-construction stormwater ordinance that city officials say will increase redevelopment project fees 9 percent while providing environmental benefits in area watersheds.

No one opposed the revisions during a public hearing Monday night and council members then voted to approve changes related to mitigation fee options for redevelopment projects.

Rob Nanfelt, government affairs manager for the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, which supported the revisions, urged council approval.

“While we are not excited about the fees going up, we are pleased with the fee credits which should offset some of the additional costs,” Nanfelt said in an email.

Said Councilman John Autry, who chairs the city’s environment committee, “The ordinance is in a much better place than it was three years ago, a much better place than it was two years ago. It was not an easy challenge.

“It means so much to this city, this county and the future of our children and our children’s children that we have good, high-quality creeks and streams in Mecklenburg County.”

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 so developers could pay the fee on redevelopment projects across Charlotte.

When the program came up for renewal at the end of 2014, the City Council voted for a temporary three-year extension, while convening a task force to consider whether the citywide mitigation fee should be made permanent.

The revisions Monday night apply only outside the transit station areas and economically distressed districts, said Daryl Hammock, assistant manager in the city’s Storm Water Services Division.

The 2017 expiration date has been replaced with the permanent ordinance changes made Monday, Hammock said.

The key changes to the ordinance are:

*Makes permanent the option for redevelopment projects to pay a mitigation fee.

*Added protection of streams downstream from redevelopment projects.

*Added on-site control requirements that are low cost and feasible on most redevelopment


*Raised the mitigation fee, which is directly tied to the city’s costs to provide regional

controls and ensures greater effectiveness off-site.

*Allows mitigation fee reductions when on-site control requirements are met.

Mitigation fees would increase from $60,000 for the first acre and $90,000 for every acre thereafter, to:

*$75,000 for the first acre or portion.

*$90,000 for the second acre or portion.

*$105,000 for the third acre or portion.

*$120,000 for every acre (or portion) above.

A new fee credit of 25 percent would be provided for all projects providing onsite controls as required by a downstream analysis.

“In many instances, the redevelopment projects will pay less than they did before this revision,” Hammock said in an email.

Some onsite control measures are still required for most sites to manage volume and peak flow downstream, but costly water quality measures are eliminated through payment of the fee, according to REBIC.

The combined effect varies significantly by site. But collectively, the changes result in a fee increase on redevelopment projects of roughly 9 percent, which also provides a proportional environmental benefit, according to city officials.

The final proposal was supported by REBIC and other groups.

The revisions require a downstream analysis to determine if a healthy stream exists within the project’s impacted watershed, Hammock said.

If a healthy stream segment is identified within the downstream area, the developer will be required to provide stormwater detention, as well as two water quality controls from a range of options approved by the city, Hammock said. They include:

*Sediment forebay installation.

*Parking lot/vehicular area sweeping at least twice monthly.

*Built-upon-area reduction of at least 10 percent from predevelopment conditions.

*Parking lot/vehicular area reduction of at least 50 percent from predevelopment conditions.

*Partial stormwater quality treatment, using onsite controls.

If no quality stream segment is identified, but onsite detention is still required to address downstream flooding, the developer must provide one water quality control from that list, Hammock said.

If the stormwater administrator determines that physical conditions at a site preclude compliance with the requirements for onsite controls, then quality-stream protection, detention and stormwater quality control may be waived.

The mitigation fees are used by staff members to design and build stormwater control measures elsewhere in the watershed.

In October 2014, the City Council requested that the city manager convene a task force, made up of environmental and development industry interests, to develop recommendations for revisions to the city’s post-construction stormwater ordinance related to in-lieu mitigation fee options for redevelopment projects.

The City Council also directed stormwater services staff members to help bring about task force meetings, to begin in January 2015 and conclude no later than January 2016.

Staff members coordinated the task force and held 19 meetings to discuss options to include in a consensus agreement, which the task force reached last November.

In February, the environment committee voted unanimously to revise the ordinance.

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