City of Atlanta Moves Forward with Stormwater Ordinance Implementation

Throughout last year Council members and staff, along with the Metro Atlanta Real Estate Trade Group (MARTG) met with city staff on multiple occasions in order to advocate for a balanced approach to stormwater management that did not hinder new economic development, or more importantly, redevelopment in the City.  City staff and Council for Quality Growth members worked diligently over a ten month period to incorporate changes in the ordinance that was passed unanimously out of the City Council.

The City is now in the implementation phase of the ordinance and is developing user-friendly manuals for developers to use when considering their projects.

Cory Rayburn, Environmental Program Manager with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management, presented updates to the Council for Quality Growth’s Atlanta Advisory Committee regarding the implementation of the ordinance and examples where it is being used in the City.

The new ordinance promotes the use of Green Infrastructure (GI) projects in the City of Atlanta. In essence, green infrastructure is designed to collect the first inch (1.0″) of rainwater – which traditional contains the highest concentration of pollutants and hydrocarbons – using “an interconnected natural or engineered system that mimics undeveloped hydrologic functions”. These include soil retention, rain gardens, bioswales, bioretentions and pervious pavement, among other projects. They can be designed in a way that not only addresses stormwater management issues, but they can also improve the aesthetic appearance of communities. Greenspace and plants in bioretention areas often do not need to be irrigated or fertilized because they feed off of the hydrocarbons and pollutants that need to be removed from our stormwater and are irrigated by the natural rainwater carrying these pollutants. In addition, developers can sometimes meet their tree ordinance requirements at the same time that they meet stormwater management requirements under the new ordinance. Pervious surfaces can also absorb rainwater in parking lots, walkways and roofs, collecting rainwater which can be reused to flush toilets and potentially offset water costs for businesses.

This is important to the Council as other municipalities around the region begin to look at their current stormwater ordinances and consider changes that would affect the development community.

As was reported last week, The current Georgia Stormwater Management Manual (Blue Book) was completed in 2001. Over the last 10+ years, new information about managing stormwater has become available as well as more clarity on the costs and benefits of better managing stormwater.  Recognizing the changing landscape and the need for more innovative and flexible approaches, the time is right to revise the Blue Book to better accommodate these needs.

Over the next 12 – 18 months, a team made of people representing federal, state, regional, and local governments as well as non-profits, universities, and industry groups will work to revise the Blue Book.  These revisions are expected to take newer approaches to stormwater, such as green infrastructure, and blend them with current approaches to give local governments and other users a useful management tool.  These revisions will also address key regulatory requirements such as MS4 Stormwater permits as well as cost, benefits, and long-term costs of stormwater practices.

An RFP for a consultant to the project is expected to be issued in the next week and the Council will publish this for members when it is available.

To see Cory Rayburn’s full presentation, click HERE.