Thursday, January 1, 2015

Developers Hear About New Stormwater Requirememts

Fairhope, Alabama


Turnout was disappointing as Planning Director Johnathan Smith and consultant Christopher Baker of Thompson Engineering explained the proposed more environmentally-friendly amendments to the city's zoning and subdivision regulations.

The proposals involve retaining more stormwater on-site using green infrastructure -- rather than discharge it into watersheds.

The meeting was held in the library's Giddens room; some city Environmental Committee members were also present.

(Smith is asking that any comments/criticisms/input from area developers/builders be submitted in writing by January 9th. -- johnathan.smith (at)

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is expected to require the techniques state-wide in about 2 years, according to the state's new Low Impact Development Handbook -- see below.

The city is looking to "get ahead of the curve" since runoff is such a big issue here.


The proposed amendment to subdivision regulations will apply to new developments within the city limits and the city's planning jurisdiction outside; and require LID to the maximum extent possible.

A mix of some conventional methods will still be allowed (ie. retention ponds) -- but discouraged.

Of 20 techniques listed, the developer must choose a minimum of 13; including wet basins (lakes), rain gardens, permeable pavement, sand filters, swales, bio-retention, etc.

The Planning Commission can make the changes without further action by city council.


Smith, Baker
Proposed changes to zoning laws apply only within the city limits; and refer mostly to new parking lot requirements (over 12 spaces):

* 30-40 percent must be reserved for compact cars.
* Interior landscaping required.
* Permeable pavement required (for area over 12 spaces)

* One of 5 others listed required: bio-retention, rain gardens, vegetated swales, trees/groundcover, first-flush treatment (first 1.5 inches rainfall).

The city council must give final approval to zoning ordiance changes


Those who attended generally expressed support; but John Avent of Preble Risch llc. worried if the city could handle the added maintenance: most of the installations in new residential subdivisions would be installed in street right-of-ways -- to eventually be taken over by the public works
John Avent, white shirt

He was told the mayor/council would have to consider the need for additional crews and equipment (vacuum trucks).

An approved operation and maintenance plan would be needed for developments on private property -- financed by the owner, or HOA.

Another builder noted that because there are so many soil types in Fairhope, methods used could differ considerably from site to site.

Avent called it a "good first step" and said he was "onboard with it" himself; but cautioned the general public would need to be "educated about it" -- and "get used to seeing more water" as it passes through the new drainage devices.

All agreed it would need to be "tweaked" some more before final adoption.


other developers

Smith called it a "collaborative effort" and wanted more feedback from local builders/developers so the changes could be adopted by February or March.

He was trying to get the word out -- "to know what is coming" so no one could claim to be blindsided after the final adoption and implementation.

Smith: "Do it collaboratively ... get the bugs out before implementation."

He suggested the developer community may want to choose a single speaker to organize communication with the Planning Department.

Consultant Baker also said he would like to hear more feedback -- to not be seen as "dictating" the methods unilaterally.


Innovative stormwater best management practice design (LID) workshops are planned at the Weeks Bay Reserve Resource Center from 8:30AM till 4:30PM:

 Jan 28th and 29th and
 Feb 25th and 26th

Cost is $25 per session or $175 for all four.

(Located on US 98 under the Fish River bridge. Fairhope Environmental Advisory Committee member Mike Shelton is its Director)

For more information:

From ADEM's quearterly newsletter:

1 comment:

Dick said...

This is Agenda 21