By Sarah Hippensteel Hall, Ph.D., manager of watershed partnerships
Could your land use plan be holding back your community?
It could if you’re not focusing on balancing water protection with land development.
This region is averaging about 4 more inches of precipitation per year than it did 30 years ago. Stronger storms, heavier rainfalls and destructive erosion are becoming more common. Just a few weeks ago, the region experienced a new record for rainfall for June 14, from 1.29 inches that day to 2.68 inches, according to a Dayton Daily News story.
Businesses looking to grow or relocate want to be sure flooding isn’t an issue. Communities now more than ever need to focus on protecting their water, and mitigating flooding and peak flows.
Studies show green development practices can save money
According to a 2010 study by the American Society of Landscape Architects, governments are wasting billions of dollars a year by not going green. The report looked at 479 case studies of green development projects around the U.S. and found that in more than 73 percent of the cases, the environmentally friendly solution cost the same or less than traditional development.
According to the study, green development practices:
- Not only cost less, but these practices can further reduce costs of treating large amounts of polluted runoff.
- Can help municipalities reduce energy expenses.
- May reduce flooding and related flood damage.
- Improve public health — reducing bacteria and pollution in rivers and streams, preventing gastrointestinal illnesses in swimmers and boaters.
Seattle Public Utilities found that using grassed channels; combined with narrowing the roadway, eliminating traditional curb and gutter, and placing sidewalks on only one side of the street garnered a cost savings for the city of 15–25 percent, or $100,000 – $235,000 per block, as compared to conventional stormwater control design (Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2010).
Land Use Planning to protect water and maximize economic opportunity
MCD can help communities that want to integrate water protection into their land use plans, zoning code, and subdivision regulations. Amending local codes and ordinances is an important first step to achieving a balance between protecting water and promoting economic development.
Communities often find that their existing development policies conflict with the goal of water protection. For instance, current design calls for
- Wide streets
- Expansive parking lots
- Large-lot subdivisions
All of these create excessive impervious cover, increase flood risk in low lying areas, and provide little room for green space and a natural environment. Incentives for developers to conserve natural areas and consider water protection are generally few and far between.
So what’s the answer?
Better Site Design is an approach to both residential and commercial development that is intended to:
- Reduce flood risk.
- Help comply with stormwater regulations.
- Increase groundwater recharge.
- Improve stormwater filtration.
- Reduce erosive flows to streams and rivers.
All of the above can save your community money and create a more marketable product.
How MCD can help
Using a Site Planning Roundtable, MCD staff can guide a community through a consensus process, bringing together local leaders from government, development, and natural resources.
Together, we’ll create development policies that balance water protection and economic development for your community.
The local roundtable will:
- Identify existing development rules.
- Compare them to the principles of Better Site Design.
- Determine if changes can or should be made to current codes and ordinances.
- Negotiate and reach consensus on what the changes should be.
Let’s get started!
MCD, in partnership with local sponsors, can assist communities during all phases of the Site Planning Roundtable. Call me at 937-223-1278 ext. 3244 and let’s get started!