Crucial Charlotte City Council vote on stormwater controls – Oct 27

303d map 2012

To Sierra Club members and the Charlotte Environmental Community:

Are you satisfied that over 80% of the streams in Charlotte are unfit for human contact?

We certainly hope not. And we need you to take a few minutes to do something about it. On Monday night, 10/27/14, the Charlotte City Council will vote on a measure that stands to weaken the ordinance that protects our streams. It’s called the “Post-Construction Controls Ordinance” (PCCO), but it really should be called the “Charlotte Stream Protection Law.” It requires that builders use on-site controls to reduce the storm water runoff that pollutes our streams. The development community wants weaken this law by extending to developers a “get out of jail free card” called the fee-in-lieu.

If you really want to learn more about the details, you can read this article in Creative Loafing:

But here’s what you need to do immediately:

Send a letter, email or call the Mayor and as many City Council members as you can and tell them to oppose the extension of the temporary policy that allows developers to pay a fee to avoid on-site pollution controls. This fee is called a “fee-in-lieu,” meaning the developer makes a payment “in-lieu” of doing what is needed to control on-site pollution. While the payment will theoretically be used by the City storm water department to help clean-up our streams, that’s a backwards way of approaching the problem and will harm our streams. On-site pollution controls are needed.

Here are some talking points that you can use:

  • Please oppose the extension of the “fee-in-lieu” to the Post-Construction Controls Ordinance.
  • Over 80% of our streams are impaired and not fit for human contact.
  • This is Charlotte’s most important ordinance for water quality.
  • PCCO provides on-site regulations that are needed and cannot be replaced by less effective mitigation. On-site controls offer the best method of controlling pollution.
  • PCCO was a compromise. A group of stakeholders met over several years to develop the ordinance. We can’t compromise on the compromise.
  • It’s unrealistic to believe that development is being stopped by the PCCO.
  • We should actually strengthen PCCO by requiring on-site filters.
  • This is an example of paid staff from the development community trying to wear down citizens who have limited time to stay informed and involved in complicated issues. Citizens lose faith in the government and the process when this occurs.
  • We should rename PCCO to “Charlotte Stream Protection Law” so that citizens can recognize its importance.
  • This is an opportunity for the City Council to show environmental leadership and accountability.

Here’s the contact information for the Mayor and City Council:


Daniel (Dan) Clodfelter


Phone:  704-336-2241

Mayor Pro Tem

Michael Barnes

Email: Phone: 704-509-6141

Council At-Large:

David Howard

Email: Phone: 704-336-4099

Claire Green Fallon

Email: Phone: 704-336-6105

Vi Lyles

Email: Phone: 704-336-3431

District Representatives:

Patsy Kinsey, District 1

Email: Phone: 704-336-3432 or 704-376-5367

Al Austin, District 2

Email: Phone: 704-336-3185

LaWana Mayfield, District 3

Email: Phone:   704-336-3435 (office) or 704-352-7305 (cell)

Greg Phipps, District 4

Email: Phone: 704-336-3436

John Autry, District 5

Email: Phone: 704-336-2777

Kenny Smith, District 6

Email: Phone: 704-336-3433

Ed Driggs, District 7 Phone: 704-432-7077

This is critically important. If we lose this battle, we’ll lose the opportunity to clean-up our polluted streams. And one more thing. We need to know that you’ve taken action. Please copy David Robinson, Charlotte Sierra Club Group Chair, on your emails or let him know that you’ve made calls or sent letters. David’s email address is: .

Take Action: Protect America’s Water and Children from Chemical Facilities

Saturday was the anniversary of the Clean Water Act. How about taking some action today!

Take Action: EPA must protect children from chemical facilities

Take Action: EPA Must Protect Children from Chemical Facilities

The statistics are staggering: One in three children in the United States attends a school within the danger zone of a hazardous chemical facility. Half of these kids (more than 10 million students) attend schools in the danger zone of more than one facility. After a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas, last year, President Obama announced an executive order (#13650) instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to work with other government agencies to find ways to strengthen protections and prevent future disasters.

Take Action
The public comment period is closing soon, so send a note today and tell EPA Administrator McCarthy you support swift action and strong prevention requirements!


Take Action: Protect America's water

Take Action: Protect America’s Water

Forty years ago, two-thirds of America’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters were unsafe for fishing and swimming. Because of the Clean Water Act, that number has since been cut in half. However, one-third of our nation’s waters are still in trouble. The Obama administration has proposed a new protection to clarify which wetlands and streams in the U.S. are covered under the Clean Water Act. This proposal will finally restore protections, as originally intended, to almost all of the nation’s fresh waters — ensuring safe drinking water for 117 million Americans.

Take Action
The deadline for comments has been extended until November 14! Send a message to the EPA in support of its proposal to protect America’s streams and wetlands from dangerous pollution!

Save North Carolina’s Hofmann Forest – The Largest University Forest in the World

Please join me in signing a petition to save Hofman Forest!

For more information or to help with this campaign, contact Ron Sutherland at

To learn more about the Hofman Forest, check out the great interactive active map below and the two recent updates about the sale.

Hofman Forest Map

Here are two recent updates about the sale of this North Carolina treasure.

NCSU ponders making Hofmann Forest error

Problem is, word leaked a while back that NCSU’s powers-that-be want to trade the forest to the Walker Agriculture Group of Illinois for a truckload of cash. The news got the school’s forestry professors and student body up in arms, not to mention conservationists and ecologists.

The real fly in the punch bowl is a development plan that includes roads, houses, shopping centers, a golf course and thousands of logged, crushed, burned, ripped and plowed acres to be planted in corn. Once “the plan” became public, the Wuffies denied they’d designed it, and the Walker group denied they’d made it. Walker also now denies any sort of “development” will occur at Hofmann Forest, but the terms of the sale don’t preclude the company doing whatever it wishes.

Because the White Oak and New rivers flow through Hofmann, development on a landscape scale almost certainly will cause trouble downstream: erosion, polluted water, high bacteria counts, beach closures. The Castle Hayne Aquifer that provides fresh water to several communities could also be affected. The forest acts as a filtering agent to prevent bad stuff from getting into the aquifer, the rivers, fish and, ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean.


Opponents to forest sale await rulings on assessment

The university has contended that the land is not “public” and not subject to the environmental assessment requirement under the State Environmental Policy Act, but Sutherland and the others have noted that the land has not been subject to taxation and that the state attorney general, Roy Cooper, has said he was obligated to handle the case for the university.

The university also faces a pending investigation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is examining findings by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that indicate illegal wetlands ditching and draining has taken place in the forest.

While the university and Hofmann Forest LLC have contended the forest would be protected under the original sale, opponents have said there was nothing firm about that in the sale agreement, nor in the new one, and have pointed to leaked buyers’ prospectus circulated by Hofmann LLC to attract investors.

The prospectus mentioned the possibility of up to 2 million square feet of commercial development, possible construction of up to 10,500 residential units and the high-quality soils that would be conducive to farming if the trees were removed. The school and the LLC disavowed that prospectus.

“Also, consider this thought experiment,” Sutherland (Ron Sutherland, a conservation scientist for the Wildlands Network) said. “If another large tract of existing public forest, such as Croatan or Pisgah National Forest, were suddenly placed up for sale – of course we would fight such a plan tooth and nail – (and) if the relevant government leaders then announced a new plan where only one-fourth of the forest would be destroyed for sure, and the rest only ‘possibly,’ would anyone call that a victory for conservation? No, absolutely not. That would be a huge net loss of public forestland that citizens would find unacceptable. That is the alternative being proffered by NCSU now, with their revised Hofmann sale agreement, and we continue to reject their flawed premise that some loss of public forest is a necessary outcome of this situation.”

Please join me in signing a petition to save Hofman Forest!

Thanks, and spread the word to your friends on Facebook, etc!



ROBERT REDFORD: “Fracking Puts Our Drinking Water at Risk” (So Submit Comments on the NC Fracking Rules)

Just 2 days left (midnight, Sept 30th) to submit comments on the proposed NC fracking rules!

Submit Written Comments on Fracking Rules

Don’t forget, the Sept. 30th deadline for submitting written comments on the fracking rules is tomorrow! Check out the Frack Freee NC resource page here, for more information and bullet points to focus your comments on the rules.

To send a quick comment, go to Last Call for Fracking Comments – Sept 30th!

For more detailed taking points to really make an impression, click below and write and send a personal message!

NC Fracking RulesMEC-rules-1-page_WNC_8-28

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.

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