Q #3 Water quality and stormwater

3.  Chapel Hill has state and local ordinances for water quality, storm water management, impervious surface limits, stream buffers, steep slopes, and trees, that apply when the Town Council approves projects. If you favor policies that prevent flooding and improve water quality, what changes would you make?  Do you think the present ordinances are implemented effectively?

George Cianciola   I do favor policies that prevent flooding and improve water quality.  I would not make any immediate changes in the current policies until I had sufficient information to indicate where our current policies are falling short or where our current policies could be strengthened by utilization of newer technologies or methodologies.  I would favor increasing control over and surveillance of ongoing construction sites as these sites can be quickly transformed into problems by sudden and extreme weather conditions.  I am not certain that our present ordinances are being implemented to their fullest possible extent because, I would guess, of inadequate staffing and education.  I believe that finding the fiscal resources to improve upon both staffing and education should be a priority moving forward.

Ed Harrison  As has been the case for more than 35 years, as an environmental management professional and now as a policymaker, I favor local and state rules that prevent flooding and improve water quality When I researched and wrote about water quality protection for the Conservation Foundation of NC (1986-88), Chapel Hill was already a statewide leader in these areas. As a Council member, I’ve learned much about the impact and implementation of environmental ordinances. I worked with the former planning director on drafting both our steep slope and stream buffer provisions. It’s important to realize that making an ordinance more rigorous doesn’t necessarily protect the environment more, although it certainly does in many cases. Because every land use applicant has to comply with ordinances, a very small project – adding a deck to a house – can be make far more expensive by an ineffectively implemented ordinance.

Overall policy changes I would work for:  More detailed stormwater management planning on a sub-watershed basis (e.g. Lower Booker Creek); requiring a far clearer justification from staff for recommending approval of variances in Council-level development applications, especially for steep slopes and stream buffers; eliminating the staff-driven proposal for weakening buffer depth on our larger creeks – an issue I flagged for Council and the public.

Loren Hintz  This is a very important issue which is complicated by HB 74. I do want to prevent flooding and to improve water quality. I would like to see homeowners receive a small rebate from their storm water fee if they install a green roof, rain garden or preserve trees and undergrowth. Unfortunately a number of structures have been constructed in the floodplain. Signage should be required to warn residents and shoppers of the potential for flooding. In general I would like storm water to be held in the area and filtered through soil before release. I want to maintain wide buffers, reduce impervious surface and protect the tree canopy. We need to encourage planting trees especially by sidewalks, bus stops and greenways. After attending the LUMO workshop, I can see how implementation of the regulations can be confusing and that they should be made clearer. We need to teach the importance of these rules, ways citizens can protect the watershed and ways staff can be more proactive rather than reactive to reported problems.

Sally Greene  As a consequence of Chapel Hill 2020, we are embarking on a process of LUMO revision that includes reevaluation of our stormwater rules. There are some discrepancies between state and local laws, even in the ways in which things are measured. Moreover, even within LUMO these rules were written isolation. We have discovered over the years that they could be improved for more effective implementation.

While understanding the interest in making sure that these different regulations speak to each other in the same language, I will advocate for continued high-quality stormwater controls. As a Planning Board member more than a decade ago, when the LUMO was being written, I advocated for strong environmental rules in all of these areas: impervious surface limits, buffers, steep slopes, and tree protection. As a Council member I was involved in strengthening the tree ordinance, and I support current efforts from the Historic District Commission to gain more regulatory control over trees in historic districts. I will continue to be a strong advocate for stringent, uncompromising, and effective environmental regulation.

Gary Kahn  The change that I would make is to include looking at each of the ordinances and think of how we can improve them, and if not effective how we can change them.  Present ordinances are used effectively as was (shown) by the gas spill on MLK.

Paul Neebe  Yes I am wholeheartedly in favor of policies that prevent flooding and which improve water quality. We need more stringent standards and ordinances for storm water control. I think this past summers flooding is a big red blinking danger light that demands immediate attention.  There is technology to fix this.   One example of which I am aware is the St. Thomas More Church which uses rainwater for their toilets in their new addition.  This is just one of many solutions.

Maria Palmer   I think we can do better. We need to engage the talent we have in our universities and local businesses and non-profits. We need to be more innovative, including putting vegetation on top of buildings and parking decks and creating more urban gardens.

Amy Ryan  I appreciate the importance of our creeks and streams to the health of our land, for water quality, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem services. In my positions on the CDC and Planning Board I have consistently voted to protect our RCDs and provide good storm water management for town projects.  The town is currently reviewing its RCD rules, and I have supported, and will continue to support, retaining our current RCD dimensions and not limiting our stream protections to those provided by the Jordan Lake rules (if these rules are ultimately implemented).

The recent failure of the BMP at the town library indicates that we need to do a better job with our storm water infrastructure.  Once the reasons for the failure are determined – whether it was poor design, poor construction, or other factors – the town needs to enact measures to make sure that such failure does not occur again.

D.C. Swinton   Chapel Hill absolutely has to invest in improving its infrastructure in an environmentally friendly manner. We must invest in permeable sidewalks and roads to diminish stormwater runoff and prevent or diminish flooding. Had such systems been in place, the damage we experienced months ago would not have been as severe.






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