Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Raining on our parade

The stormwater police are gearing up to expand their (work)force and fire power.  This time it's city engineering staff that wants to pick your pocket, take part of your yard, and load you with odious regulations related to rain water.  Remember, it's the government's water.
 Oh no! People covered with large, impervious surfaces!    
Why the extreme rules? What problems are the staff trying to solve?  
According to the Lake Oswego Review, city Stormwater Manager, Anne MacDonald, said that the streams and lakes in the city do not meet water quality standards. But that is not what the TMDL Report says.  Oswego Lake has a problem with phosphorous and a couple of streams are too warm. Did I miss something?  Another lake perhaps?  
Are the proposed regulations required by the state or federal government?
Some. A lot of the proposed new rules go way beyond what are required by DEQ.  The proposed codes don't separate the two.  
How many new city employees and consultants would it take to create, administer, inspect and enforce the new rules and how much would it cost?
Good question, but it's obvious that MacDonald cannot do everything herself. The head of the engineering department, Erica Rooney, said they were being run ragged as it is. As time went on, the sheer volume of installations to administer, inspect, follow and enforce would be enormous.  All those new deed restrictions are to track compliance.
“A big part of the city has never been looked at for stormwater management — older sections and subdivisions never had requirements 40 or 50 years ago,” says Planning Commission Vice Chairman John LaMotte. “The city has to catch up (to stormwater requirements) in these areas.”  

"LaMotte says the proposed changes to the city’s Stormwater Management Manual implement “more modern” techniques for addressing runoff." (LO Review)
Older sections of town have to "catch up"?  Be "more modern"?  There will always be newer, "more modern" methods to do everything.  How far will our regulatory machine go?  
What is happening to our property rights? 
Why would the citizens, Planning Commission and City Council allow these over-the-top rules to be approved?  
Another good question.  In times past (and not that long ago), the city adopted the least restrictive regulations that the state required so as not to impose undue hardship and rules on citizens.  This made for a happier town.  At some point, about 13 or so years ago, it became the fashion to follow Portland's decent down the rabbit hole of smart growth.  This resulted in a new age of eco-zealotry, over-bearing, neighbor-spying-on-neighbor, regulatory hell.  There are thousands of citizens who want their city back and don't want to have it run by "staff" and NGO activists. This IS a HOME RULE city.  Just do it!
Who is making policy and running this town?  
We'll see.  The Stormwater Management Manual is mainly a policy statement with code language.  Will the Planning Commission and City Council misinterpret (with staff help) as a required regulatory necessity, or understand that they get to decide what direction this town goes in?  Code follows policy, so get the policy right.  Once approved, the combined policies and code, written by staff, would be difficult or impossible to change.  
On Monday night, there will be a Public Hearing on new policies and codes that will establish the conditions and methods property owners will have to follow to take care of rain water that has the audacity to fall on their land.  Uninvited, like a bad party guest.  But now that it's on your property, it's your responsibility.  Maybe.  

I know of a couple of developments where the stormwater systems installed per the new dictates don't work. Downhill neighbors are getting more than their share of water and grief.  It isn't supposed to be their problem, but the codes are final, so what are they going to do?  (Downhillers who complain are called "whiners" - don't listen to them.)

Planning Commission
Public Hearing for Stormwater Management Manual
Monday, November 23, 2015
5:30 PM at City Hall 

There is every reason to disapprove this SMM.  A delay of a decision so that the public can have meaningful (advertised and solicited) input is ideal.  At the Open House in October, MacDonald explained that the schedule for work sessions and public hearings was the shortest possible timeframe possible as this document was being fast-tracked.  When that happens, it is typically done to avoid close scrutiny.  There is no magic behind the concepts in this book.  The main points are the minimum triggers for when a property owner would be swept up into the program, and what would be the extent of the new regulations.  In both cases, the minimum limits go way beyond what DEQ requires.  

Is the kind of city you want to live in?
Whose city is it?  


  1. The stormwater portion of the meeting is expected to start at 6:45 per the agenda.