Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Monday, October 19, 2015

Who sets stormwater policy in Lake Oswego?

Piling on regulations while no one is looking
Housing in Lake Oswego will never be the same.
If it's expensive now, it will be much more expensive tomorrow.  

It appears the engineering department has sole custody of all policy, code, permitting, implementation and enforcement activities in the city.  Policy-making is a legislative act and mainly a function of the city council.  The Stormwater Management Manual has been put into practice NOW, before the planning commission or city council have even seen the actual implementing policies and codes. A display of confidence that staff's plans are golden.

From workshop for design community held October 15: (note second bullet point)

Can you imagine what these new infiltration systems might cost with all the technical plans, permits, submittals, inspections, construction and maintenance?  And the O and M (Operations and Maintenance) plan that goes with the system?  And what needs to be filed with the property deed?  Even if infiltration systems are required, I can't imagine how the Feds or the State would require a deed restriction and an O and M plan.  LO is famous for piling on codes for no good reason.  If I were a builder today, I would ignore the plan until I was required by law to implement it.  Housing prices in LO will climb even higher, contrary to our Comp Plan requirement for affordable housing.

Here is what I imagine goes on in City Hall:
"That's a good idea!"
 "Yes. Let's make a regulation to make it happen" 
"What will it cost?  
"Cost is not the issue.  It's for the planet." 
 "Won't people object?"
"It doesn't matter.  We've already locked the city into our plan with the TMDL that we filed, even though the City Council wanted us to wait for the Sensitive Lands code to be fixed."

From the draft code for the Stormwater Management Plan: (emphasis mine). Code is to be discussed at the Monday, October 26, Planning Commission Meeting.  Full draft of implementing code is attached to the agenda.  Read all the documents you can, plan on going to the meeting or commenting beforehand.  Comments here will be heard.  

Comment: Maintenance is defined as, “Upkeep or repair of any structure or site feature necessary to keep the structure or site feature in good and safe condition...” (e.g., replacing a roof or resurfacing an existing driveway) and does not trigger stormwater requirements. Development (e.g., increasing the building height one story, rebuilding a street or driveway) would trigger stormwater requirements, even if the footprint does not change.

The City is required by the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit to reduce pollutant discharge to receiving waters “to the maximum extent practicable.” For large projects (3,000 square feet), the permit explicitly requires that City standards:
  1. 1)  Incorporate site-specific management practices that target natural surface or predevelopment hydrologic functions as much as practicable. The site-specific management practices should optimize on-site retention based on the site conditions;
  2. 2)  Reduce site specific post-development stormwater runoff volume, duration and rates of discharges to the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) to minimize hydrological and water quality impacts from impervious surfaces;
  3. 3)  Prioritize and include implementation of Low-Impact Development (LID), Green Infrastructure (GI) or equivalent design and construction approaches; and,
  4. 4)  Capture and treat 80% of the annual average runoff volume, based on a documented local or regional rainfall frequency and intensity.
Policy issue: City staff believe that stormwater requirements should be applied to all impervious surfaces on a site, not just the incremental increase in footprint of impervious surface. Staff sees this as necessary in order to meet the permit requirements listed above (particularly #s 1 and 2) for large projects. This also allows the City to get closer to meeting TMDL waste load allocations, and to make progress toward addressing ongoing local drainage needs. This is analogous to bringing wiring up to code, replacing aluminum with copper wiring by addressing some of the “load” that older development has placed on the City’s surface water management system. Staff is asking for concurrence on this issue, and guidance on the degree to which this should be applied to small and medium projects.

Requiring the inclusion of stormwater management at the time of development has been determined to be a practicable approach to upgrading stormwater management “to current code” just as might be required within the footprint of the development upon property transfer or remodeling. This is consistent with all other Phase I MS4-permitted jurisdictions in Oregon (i.e., Portland-area, Salem, and Eugene). 

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