Council to vote on ordinance to encourage use of "green" options to manage stormwater

Ordinance on Council's agenda for Aug. 26 meeting at 6 p.m.

Marlene Feist, Utilities Communications Manager, 509.625.6505

Thursday, August 22, 2013 at 4 p.m.

The Spokane City Council is expected to vote on Monday on a proposed new ordinance that would encourage property owners and developers to use green strategies—called low impact development—to manage stormwater as part of their development or redevelopment projects.

The ordinance is on the agenda for the Council's 6 p.m. meeting on Aug. 26, and the public will have an opportunity to provide comments at that time. The Council meets in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

Low impact development is an emerging practice that mimics nature's management of stormwater. It emphasizes site conservation and uses natural landscaping features to filter and retain stormwater close to where it falls. The rain gardens on South Lincoln Street and the stormwater planters and pervious pavement on West Broadway Avenue are examples of low impact development.

“We are committed to improving the health of the Spokane River,” says Rick Romero, the City's Division Director of Utilities. “Low impact development captures stormwater—which carries pollutants—and keeps it from flowing into the Spokane River.”

The techniques also can remove pollutants from stormwater, reduce flooding, preserve open space, and replenish wetlands, among other things. The proposed ordinance defines low impact development and acceptable use of the techniques in Spokane and offers financial incentives to include the techniques in projects. Property owners can get a break on commercial stormwater charges.

New or redevelopment projects already are required to manage stormwater on site. Under the proposed ordinance, low impact development techniques are an optional, but acceptable, way to achieve management of stormwater.

The proposed ordinance is consistent with a new Integrated Clean Water Plan the City is developing to manage stormwater and wastewater that impacts the Spokane River. The integrated plan will prioritize projects based on their positive environmental impact to the river. It will include projects to reduce untreated discharges to the river from both separated storm sewers and combined sanitary and stormwater sewers.

One of the goals of the plan is to incorporate new cost-effective, “green” technologies for managing stormwater on site and reduce the amount flowing into pipes that discharge directly to the river.

“The City expects to add projects using low impact development as part of our Integrated Plan work and consider adding such features when reconstructing streets and making other infrastructure improvements,” says Romero. “We are elevating our work around stormwater as a City, and encouraging private developers to use these techniques makes sense and will build on our efforts.”

The low impact development ordinance has been developed with participation from a citizens stakeholder group that consists of representatives from the development community, construction and engineering firms, utilities, large institutional property owners, professional groups, environmental groups, and state agencies. It also is a requirement of consent decree between the City and the Spokane Riverkeeper.

The City's Plan Commission also held a public hearing on the ordinance in July and discussed it at two workshops in May and June. The draft ordinance and related information is attached.