Public Hearing Comments on the Proposed Weakened Stormwater Ordinance

Read two of the comments made at the September 22nd Public Hearing on the proposed weakening of our stormwater regulations. And while you’re at it, mark for calendar for October 27th for the City Council vote on this ordinance. We’ll need your voice, signs, and emails and calls to the Charlotte City Council!

Public Comments of Bill Gupton on the PCCO Revisions

Char Global Enviro Leader

Mayor Clodfelter, members of City Council, City Staff and others,

My name is Bill Gupton and I currently serve as Conservation Chair on the Charlotte based Sierra Club Central Piedmont group.

I apologize for not appearing tonight before you tonight for this public hearing as planned. This past weekend, in 34 hours, I was part of 3 buses full of 165 concerned Charlotte area citizens that traveled 1,300 miles as we joined 7 other North Carolina buses and over 400,000 people in New York City in the largest March in world history to call for action to address the Climate Crisis and Environmental Injustice. I’m exhausted, aching, I have no voice, yet I’m committed more than ever that we must address issues at the local, state and national level.

I’m a Charlotte native who grew up in the Oakdale Community on the west side of the County in the late 50’s and early 60’s. It was rural. My friends and I romped through the woods, camped out, and explored the woods, streams, and hills. We spent much of our time at “The Creek”, a stream where we waded and played. Some days we couldn’t get in the water because it was covered in red or blue foam. On other days it was covered with an oily sheen. We didn’t know why.

Today, while some areas of our surface water are better, we are at a critical junction. 81% of our streams in Mecklenburg County are officially labeled as “Impaired”. Almost every stream in our area suffers from pollution to some degree. The good news is that where we have decided to act, we have made a big difference such as in the Little Sugar Creek.
On August 10, 2014, City staff made a presentation to the City Environmental Committee that stated “CHARLOTTE will become A GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER” and “Charlotte will lead BY EXAMPLE” (see above). If you believe that this is true and accurate, you must reject the proposed revision to the Post Construction Control Ordinance (PCCO) as it would weaken stormwater control across our City and continue to degrade our area streams, lakes and rivers.

As scheduled now, on October 27th you will vote on this ordinance. I personally consider this one of the most important environmental votes of record by this City Council. By rejecting this change you will be telling developers that the cost of onsite mitigation of stormwater pollution is not an “incremental cost” but a “cost of doing business” in today’s world to protect our environment and the surrounding residents. By rejecting this ordinance you will send a message to Charlotte residents that you support environmental justice where we do not allow pollution controls to be weakened in areas of re-development that would allow the surrounding neighborhood streams to suffer. By rejecting this ordinance you will be telling Charlotte voters that you will not allow cost shifting of stormwater control and cleanup costs from developers onto the taxpayers. By rejecting this weakening of our stormwater controls you will be demonstrating real environmental leadership.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. This was an act designed to assure that every resident deserves clean streams flowing through their neighborhood. We’ve come a long way but we have much more to do. I strongly urge you on October 27th to reject the proposed weakening of stormwater controls for the future of our City and the quality of life and health of our community. Should you vote to approve this ordinance, I would request that you ask City Staff never to use the phrases “CHARLOTTE will become A GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL LEADER” and “Charlotte will lead BY EXAMPLE” because it just won’t be true.

Thank you.

 

Public Comments from Sustain Charlotte

Good Evening Mayor Clodfelter and Members of Council,

My name is Shannon Binns and I am the founder and Executive Director of Sustain Charlotte, a local nonprofit whose mission is to inspire choices that lead to a healthier and more vibrant community for generations to come.

I have just one question for you tonight:  Do you want Charlotte to be a leader when it comes to protecting our environment and growing our city in a sustainable way?  Right now our city sustainability staff in neighborhood and business services are putting together a plan, and the overarching guiding principle is for “Charlotte to be a global environmental leader.”

However, what you will be asked to support one month from now is a policy that is nowhere near leadership.

Leaders when it comes to managing stormwater runoff are requiring a range of on-site mitigation options to capture heavy metals, oil, trash, and other forms of pollution before it enters local waterways. As we learned from city stormwater staff at the last environment committee meeting, the city of LA already has installed 10,000 pollution filters, for example. Seattle’s county, King County, is requiring these filters as well, they mentioned.  These cities are two of the leaders because they require best practices as part of their ordinances.

In 2011 our local real estate industry asked for relief from our ordinance citing the downturn in our economy. So a three-year temporary option to bypass our onsite mitigation requirement by paying a fee was granted. That three-year period expired in April but this council agreed to extend it for six months so that the environment committee and staff could explore our options. During this time, my organization and three other local nonprofits who have professional expertise on environmental science and policy issues asked staff and members of the committee to require at least some best practices rather than simply extending the option to pay a fee instead of manage stormwater on site.

Unfortunately, none of our recommendations were included.

We want our city to be a leader. We want our children to be able to safely play in their backyard streams and creeks again. We want our city to thrive for generations. But if that is going to happen we must move beyond the rhetoric and we must begin taking the actions that leading cities take.  So we urge you to vote against allowing developers anywhere in our city to simply pay a fee instead of complying with one of our most important local laws. After all, doing business in this community comes with responsibilities to this community. And I hope you will hold those who wish to profit in our city accountable to these basic responsibilities.

This is not a zero-sum game. We can have economic development AND we can protect our natural resources. This is called sustainable development, and we urge you to be a champion for sustainable development, not a champion for short-term economic development that sacrifices our quality of life.
Thanks for your service to our community and if we can provide additional expertise on this issue, please let us know.

10 Buses, Hundreds of North and South Carolinians Attend Historic People’s Climate March

Thanks to Becky Bereiter and the TWC news team for seeing us off to New York City and the People’s Climate March as we joined 400,000 folks calling for Climate Action and Climate Justice!! Check back on our website for more national AND rider coverage!

PCM TWC News14 Coverage

Hundreds of North Carolinians Headed to NYC for People’s Climate March

CHARLOTTE — Hundreds of North Carolinians left for New York City Saturday night to take part in what is being called the largest march in history addressing climate change.

More than 100,000 people from around the country are expected at Sunday’s People’s Climate March.

The event comes ahead of next week’s United Nations Climate Summit. World leaders will gather to focus on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen climate resilience.

“I think people are starting to see the severe storms, the flooding, the excess heat, and it’s starting to impact people’s pocketbooks,” said Bill Gupton of the North Carolina Sierra Club. “We have the have the same kind of movement we had with the civil rights movement and the labor movement.”

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at the summit. He is expected to urge his fellow heads of state to be as ambitious as possible as they negotiate a complicated, global treaty to reduce emissions. The treaty is set to be finalized in 2015.

Demonstrators hope Sunday’s March will help apply public pressure.

“They’re going to see it in the streets and they’re going to realize that this is not just an academic issue,” said Alan Harwick of Greensboro. “This is something that’s affecting real people now, and I think the march will show that.”

Other demonstrations are planned around the world in Delhi, Jakarta, and Rio de Janeiro. The UN Climate Summit is Tuesday.

http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/news/all_nc_news/712078/hundreds-of-north-carolinians-headed-to-nyc-for-people-s-climate-march/#sthash.VZpY7yO7.dpuf

Come Tell Charlotte City Council to Protect Our Streams, Lakes, and Rivers

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has announced a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers.

Will you speak out at the Public Hearing on Sept 22nd?

How To Sign Up to Speak at a Council Meeting

Call the City Clerk’s Office at 704-336-2248 and request to speak by giving your name, full address, daytime telephone, and subject. This information is placed on a Speaker’s List for the Mayor to follow during the meeting. During the Council meeting, as your name is called, approach the speaker’s stand and begin. The City Clerk’s timer will ring when your time is up.  See Official Rules below.

Visit the City Clerk’s Office
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 7th Floor
600 East Fourth St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Web On line Speaker Sign-Up Form

Fax your name, address, daytime phone number and subject to 704-336-7588

City Council meetings are regularly scheduled for Mondays and are held in the Meeting Chamber at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth Street. Free parking is available at the Government Center Parking Deck (3rd and Davidson) during City Council meetings.

Arrive by 6:15 PM. Council meeting starts at 6:25 PM.

Re-post from Sustain Charlotte Sept 18, 2014 e-Newsletter

On September 10, the City Council Environment Committee again chose not to recommend low-cost storm drain filters in parking lots on redevelopment sites, despite a compelling presentation from city stormwater staff on their effectiveness in reducing water pollution and their use in other major cities. The filters would reduce the amount of trash, oil, and grease entering our streams. However, they would not trap many of the chemical pollutants in stormwater runoff, nor would they prevent the large pulses of runoff that cause stream erosion.

This means that on October 27, the full City Council will vote on whether or not to extend (for five more years) the option for developers to pay the city a fee rather than comply with our local law that requires on-site control of stormwater runoff to prevent it from polluting and eroding our streams.

We encourage you to attend the public hearing on this policy this coming Monday, September 22, during City Council’s regular 6pm meeting to show public concern over this major threat to our waterways. As stated in Mecklenburg County’s 2012 State of the Environment report, “the discharge of untreated, undetained runoff from impervious surfaces has the greatest negative impact to surface water quality.”  Sustain Charlotte staff will speak at the hearing and we will ask the Council to vote against the five year extension of the payment in lieu of on-site mitigation given its negative impact on the health of our streams. We are seeking local residents to speak in defense of our streams as well.  If you would like to speak at the hearing, please let us know by replying to this email and we will provide you all of the information you need.

To learn more, read Ana McKenzie’s article in this week’s Creative Loafing.

For more information on this issue, see Sept 22: Charlotte Public Hearing – The Future of Area Water Quality, Will Developers Take Control of Our Water Quality?, 81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!, Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

Sept 22: Charlotte Public Hearing – The Future of Area Water Quality

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers.

Will you speak out at the Public Hearing on Sept 22nd?

How To Sign Up to Speak at a Council Meeting

Call the City Clerk’s Office at 704-336-2248 and request to speak by giving your name, full address, daytime telephone, and subject. This information is placed on a Speaker’s List for the Mayor to follow during the meeting. During the Council meeting, as your name is called, approach the speaker’s stand and begin. The City Clerk’s timer will ring when your time is up.  See Official Rules below.

Visit the City Clerk’s Office
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 7th Floor
600 East Fourth St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Web On line Speaker Sign-Up Form

Fax your name, address, daytime phone number and subject to 704-336-7588

For more information on this issue, see Will Developers Take Control of Our Water Quality?, 81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!, Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

PCCO HearingPCCO Public Hearing Agenda Sept 22 2014

Will Developers Take Control of Our Water Quality?

Thanks to Anna McKenzie of Creative Loafing for this important report!

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers.

For more information, see Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

Will you speak out at the Public Hearing on Sept 22nd?

How To Sign Up to Speak at a Council Meeting

Call the City Clerk’s Office at 704-336-2248 and request to speak by giving your name, full address, daytime telephone, and subject. This information is placed on a Speaker’s List for the Mayor to follow during the meeting. During the Council meeting, as your name is called, approach the speaker’s stand and begin. The City Clerk’s timer will ring when your time is up.  See Official Rules below.

Visit the City Clerk’s Office
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 7th Floor
600 East Fourth St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Web On line Speaker Sign-Up Form

Fax your name, address, daytime phone number and subject to 704-336-7588

For more information on this issue, see 81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!, Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

Developers vs. the Environment

Murky Waters Ahead
By Ana McKenzie
Sept 17, 2014

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At the end of October, City Council will vote on a measure that has pitted the interests of the development industry against reducing pollution in Charlotte’s already-degraded streams and creeks, which flow into the Catawba River.

Polluted water from development and redevelopment sites that the ground doesn’t absorb — otherwise known as storm water — runs into Charlotte’s stream and creek network. Often containing oil and heavy metals from car fluid as well as trash, such as plastic bottles, storm water is controlled by an ordinance City Council passed in 2007. Numerous stakeholder groups, including environmental advocates and developers, met in 2004 through 2005 to create the Post-Construction Controls Ordinance, which is intended to mitigate storm water around construction sites. This comes after years of mismanagement: Charlotte’s stream and creek network regularly receives failing grades from regulators, and mismanaged runoff from development and redevelopment is partially why a national river-conservation group dubbed the Catawba, which all local streams and creeks flow into, the most endangered river in the U.S. in 2008.

The PCO, as the ordinance is called, went into effect in 2008. Its requirements vary depending on which of the local 18 watershed districts — think of them as neighborhoods in which water flows — that storm water from sites runs into. For example, developers working near the Western Catawba Watershed District, which drains into Lake Norman, Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie, are required to install water-treatment systems at the site of the pollution, as opposed to off-site, and maintain a certain distance from streams and creeks.

But developers working around transit stations and in “distressed business districts” — or economically distressed parts of town as determined by Neighborhood and Business Services — are allowed to pay a fee of $60,000 per impervious acre, or artificial surfaces such as pavement, instead of installing storm water controls at their sites. The fee goes toward improving the various watersheds around Charlotte, constructing wetlands and pond rehabilitation, among other projects.

In 2011, after developers complained about too much red tape, City Council voted to temporarily extend the mitigation fee, or “fee-in-lieu,” to every part of Charlotte in order to encourage redevelopment in the midst of the economic recession. The rate structure also changed — $60,000 per the first impervious acre and $90,000 per additional acre — to deter abuse.

Roughly half of the 105 redeveloping sites that have been eligible to use the fee since 2011 have opted for it. The city “considers this evidence that the fee is set at exactly the right amount to encourage on-site control of runoff, but to also provide a cost saving option to developers.”

In April, the city advocated for the fee-in-lieu in a PowerPoint presentation during a City Council Environment Committee meeting. In one of the slides is a sentence from an EPA manual: “Experience has shown that requiring developers to install individual on-site detention and water quality facilities can lead to a regulatory and/or maintenance problem for a local government. Alternative regional solutions may be more efficient and reliable in controlling runoff volumes and pollutant discharges into public stormwater systems and streams.” The city argued that even the EPA was in favor of the fee.

But here’s the next sentence, which wasn’t included in the slide show: “However, on-site systems are typically funded by the developers whereas the general public usually pays for regional systems. An issue of equity arises if general taxpayers or ratepayers have to fund regional solutions to mitigate the impacts of private development projects rather than requiring on-site control.”

The EPA says controlling storm water on a construction site is the best way to manage pollution versus allowing pollution to flow through creeks and be treated later. But on-site controls can be expensive and can create cost uncertainty for developers.

Rick Roti, a corporate lawyer and president of Charlotte Public Tree Fund, participated in the stakeholder groups that drafted the Post-Construction Control Ordinance. When the fee-in-lieu was added, he enlisted the help of then-mayor Anthony Foxx to fight what he and many others considered too much involvement from the development community in the ordinance.

“Even though they [developers] sat on the committee … they immediately started working against adoption of the ordinance and trying to weaken it,” Roti said. “They started calling politicians, working with [city] staff, working to provide information on why it was such a bad idea.” The fee was added. “The development community has more money, more resources, than we do.”

Before it was supposed to sunset in April of this year, City Council directed Storm Water Services to determine whether to extend the fee-in-lieu another five years and present their findings to the Council’s Environment Committee in August.

Staff determined that the fee should be extended but, as a compromise, added that the city could require filters around vehicle-heavy areas, like parking lots, that would capture what they refer to as “secondary pollution,” or non-chemical runoff like trash. Otherwise, the trash ends up in streams and creeks and becomes a very visible problem. (Storm Water Services, which focuses on controlling primary pollution, such as chemicals, says it has no way of determining how much secondary pollution winds up in streams and creeks.)

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At their meeting in August, Environment Committee members David Howard, a Democrat, and Republicans Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith endorsed city staff’s recommendations to extend the fee-in-lieu, which will come to a City Council vote on Oct. 27. Chairman John Autry voted against the extension, and member Claire Fallon was not at the meeting.

As for the filters, arguing it was the first time committee members had ever heard of them, Howard, who works for an affordable-housing developer, asked staff to provide more information on their technology during the next meeting, which occurred Wednesday, Sept. 10.

The Environment Committee, a City Council subcommittee tasked with protecting quality of life as it relates to the environment, could have voted to endorse the filters during the meeting on Wednesday. Instead, Smith and Driggs favored subtracting from the fee-in-lieu the cost of incorporating filters into a construction site. During the discussion, Driggs asked an attending representative of REBIC, a powerful lobbying group in Charlotte that represents the real estate and development industry, for his opinion. “We prefer to have a clean extension of the mitigation fee but we can live with the recommendation [to implement filters].”

During his presentation Daryl Hammock, assistant division manager at Storm Water Services, said the city could live without them. “Primary pollutants are what we’re held to account for. If we want to do it [the filters] as a solution, that’s great. If we don’t want to do it at all, that’s great too.” The general consensus is that the filters are dead in the water.

Hammock, who is tasked with restoring Charlotte’s creeks and streams, said after the meeting that the fee-in-lieu is a sound way to balance development and redevelopment in Charlotte with protecting the environment. “It’s better environmentally, under current economics, for the developers to pay a fee than it is for them to control on site,” he said. “For some developers, cost doesn’t matter much. For some developments, cost is everything.”

He offered a hypothetical example of someone redeveloping a restaurant in a shopping mall in a part of town with fewer such projects, like east Charlotte. “You need to make sure costs are held as low as possible.”

Businesses that have taken advantage of the fee-in-lieu include retailer Cato during a facility expansion, a bank, a 307-unit residential apartment building and various gas stations and auto malls.

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After the late August meeting in which the Environment Committee endorsed extending the fee-in-lieu without the filters, the Catawba Riverkeeper, Sustain Charlotte, the Sierra Club and Charlotte Tree Fund penned a letter to City Council strongly urging against the full body’s approval of the extension.

“The vast majority of damage to our waterways is caused by runoff from impervious areas,” the letter said. “Our population growth has resulted in exponential growth in impervious cover and runoff that has turned many of our local streams into muddy, contaminant-laden ditches.

“The PCO’s fee-in-lieu provision was meant to be a temporary measure to encourage redevelopment during the economic downturn. Why do we need to extend it further? Development is booming again in Charlotte, and with increased traffic in areas now seeing redevelopment, now is the time to ensure that sites implement post-construction storm water measures that will rehabilitate our waterways.”

This story has been corrected. Pollution from streams and creeks flows into the Catawba River, not Mountain Island Lake, which is Charlotte’s drinking-water source.

http://clclt.com/charlotte/developers-vs-the-environment/Content?oid=3534215

 

81% of Total Mecklenburg Watershed Considered Unfit – Support Strong Stormwater Regulations!

303d map 2012

“In Mecklenburg County, 81% of the total supporting watershed are considered unfit for their supplementary use of recreation.”

For months now the Charlotte environmental and sustainability community, including Catawba RiverkeeperCharlotte Public Tree Fund, Sierra Club Central Piedmont Group, and Sustain Charlotte, have reached out to the Charlotte City Council and City Stormwater Staff and urged them NOT TO WEAKEN our stormwater protection. The Post-Construction Stormwater Ordinance (PCO) is a key regulation to stop stormwater runoff, protect our stream banks and trees, and help to reduce reduce pollution following into our streams, rivers, and lakes.

Want to learn about our Water Quality and Stormwater issues? Click below for information from the Environmental Assistance Office at UNCC.

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers. More information on the hearing to follow. Check back often.

For more information, see Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls? and Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

How To Sign Up to Speak at a Council Meeting

Call the City Clerk’s Office at 704-336-2248 and request to speak by giving your name, full address, daytime telephone, and subject. This information is placed on a Speaker’s List for the Mayor to follow during the meeting. During the Council meeting, as your name is called, approach the speaker’s stand and begin. The City Clerk’s timer will ring when your time is up.  See Official Rules below.

Visit the City Clerk’s Office
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 7th Floor
600 East Fourth St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Web On line Speaker Sign-Up Form

Fax your name, address, daytime phone number and subject to 704-336-7588

Char StormwaterStorm Water EAO Newsletter Oct 2011

Char Water QualityWater Quality EAO Newsletter May 2013

 

Will Charlotte Continue to Weaken Storm Water Controls?

For months now the Charlotte environmental and sustainability community, including Catawba RiverkeeperCharlotte Public Tree Fund, Sierra Club Central Piedmont Group, and Sustain Charlotte, have reached out to the Charlotte City Council and City Stormwater Staff and urged them NOT TO WEAKEN our stormwater protection. The Post-Construction Stormwater Ordinance (PCO) is a key regulation to stop stormwater runoff, protect our stream banks and trees, and help to reduce reduce pollution following into our streams, rivers, and lakes.

Take a moment and click below to read WHAT and WHY we asking City Council NOT TO WEAKEN our stormwater protection.

On Monday, September 22, Charlotte City Council has planned a Public Hearing that will, for the most part, determine the future water quality of our area lakes, streams and rivers. More information on the hearing to follow. Check back often.

See also: Charlotte Stormwater Pollution – Harming Our Lakes, Streams and Rivers

September 4 Joint Letter

PCO Letter Sept 4 2014 PCO Joint Comments Sept 4 2014

June 16 Joint Letter

PCCO Joint Letter June 16 2014PCO Joint Letter June 16 2014