Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fayetteville Planning Commission forwards low-impact development ordinance to City Council with unanimous vote of approval

Please click on images to see examples of erosion problems on sites where low-impact construction methods were not adequately utilized and where the geology and geography of sites are not fully understood before removal of vegetation and grading are allowed.
Truly historic unanimous vote moves low-impact development ordinance to City Council agenda. The Town Branch Neighborhood has been working to make low-impact development features a requirement of developments in south Fayetteville for a decade. Web site documents early years of Town Branch neighborhood's fight for low-impact development We have had little success as developers proposing projects listened to our pleas for protection of the Town Branch from erosion and our residents' property from flooding but had no motivation to follow through. City ordinances have actually discouraged innovative and less costly ways of managing stormwater. One important thing is having low-impact plans drawn up BEFORE removing vegetation or grading land. As in the recently approved hillside-development plan, the soil on a site must be considered first. If the geography and geology of a site are not fully studied and taken into account, low-impact development cannot occur. So here it is at last: A chance for the Fayetteville City Council to approve a good ordinance to encourage developers to protect our watershed, wildlife, property and human lives. My hope is to live long enough to see a revision of the currently proposed ordinance making low-impact development mandatory and anything less only by special council dispensation. This ordinance as proposed can help Fayetteville meet federal and state regulations and protect the quality of water in both Beaver Lake and Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma. Please click on Skip Descant's byline to view full story online in the Northwest Arkansas Times. Obviously, Skip meant to write "pervious" rather than "impervious" in its lead. Otherwise, this is a fine story. Impervious means that water cannot soak in. One key factor in low-impact development is keeping the water where it falls and allowing it to soak in, filter the water and replenish the ground water naturally.

Commission Approves Low-Impact Ordinance

 — Rain barrels, wide natural swales and impervious parking could become commonplace in Fayetteville landscapes in the future. The Planning Commission unanimously approved an ordinance to regulate “low-impact development” techniques. The ordinance now goes to the City Council for continued debate and official approval. And the shaky cell phone service around Fayetteville High School will continue. The commission again tabled a proposal to construct a new cell tower in the region. Low-impact development policies — known in planning parlance as LID — attempt to reduce the amount of rainwater runoff from a development and improve the quality of that water by naturally filtering pollutants. “There’s a lot of interest in doing things that reduce the flow,” said Leif Olson, associate planner with Fayetteville, when asked what initiative prompted the city to draft a low-impact development ordinance. “I think we’ll see it used broadly,” Olson told the commission. “It’s growing, I guess, in people wanting to do something more environmentally friendly.” The ordinance is written to accommodate low-impact developments, Olson said. It does not require developers to use these techniques. A low-impact development ordinance was one of the platforms Sarah Lewis, a councilwoman from Ward 4, ran on in 2008. She’s been closely involved in its development. “I’m very pleased,” Lewis said after the meeting. “And I’m happy that the Planning Commission saw the utility of this.” It makes more options available,” she added. “Especially in a time when the national stormwater regulations are becoming more stringent and cities will need to comply with these regulations.” The commission again delayed a vote on whether AT&T should be allowed to erect a 150-foot flagpole-type cell phone tower next door to the high school. The commission felt ill equipped to make the decision and said AT&T has not provided the planning staff or commission with enough information to base this decision. “We didn’t really have a metric to state, ‘Where is the need,’” said Jeremy Pate, director of Fayetteville development services. “It’s hard to understand that need when no data has been given,” Pate added. “We’d basically have to just go on good faith that they (AT&T) need one (a tower) and go with that.” For its part, the phone company has said this section of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which includes the high school, the Hill Place Apartment complex and Razorback Stadium nearby, needs system upgrades to accommodate large amounts of mobile phone traffic. “This is probably about the most congested and most commonly used in this region of the state,” said Dave Reynolds of Smith Communication, the Fayetteville company which would build the tower. “That’s where the traffic is,” he added. “That’s where the people are. That’s where the people are who use the phone.” Rather than build a new cell tower, the planning staff and commission would prefer to see “co-locating” on nearby cell towers or tall buildings. A cell tower already exists just more than a half-mile away at Beechwood Avenue near Baum Stadium. Another location is about a mile away near Walker Park. Neither of these locations are sufficient, Reynolds said. “I’m still not convinced that the things that staff has requested have been provided,” said Christine Myres, a commissioner who offered a motion to deny the conditional use permit. The commission will take up the request again at its next meeting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You waited two days after the LID ordinance was approved by the planning commission to mention it. What happened? Did you forget to watch the meeting?
At least you finally wrote about it and shared the news story for those of us who can't afford a paper because we spend our money on high-speed Internet.
Where are the other blogs in town on this LID issue?