City Council Hears From Both Sides On Proposed Change To Stormwater Regulations In South Chickamauga Creek Basin

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Members of the City Council on Tuesday heard from both sides on the issue of whether water retention standards should be lowered in the South Chickamauga Creek basin.

Realtors and home builders said the strict 1.6-inch requirement is adding a significant cost for home construction.

Sandy Kurtz, longtime leader of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance, said lowering the rule to one inch would bring further degradation to the stream in the form of erosion and washing in of pollutants and sediment.

Bill Raines, commercial realtor, said a Huntsville developer said he spent $300,000 on stormwater measures on a 26-acre track in his home town and $500,000 on 10 acres in Hamilton County.

He said the standard should be changed "to make it more reasonable," saying the city in 2014 had moved "to the most stringent standard in the U.S."

Attorney Bill Penny, speaking for the Home Builders Association, said changing the water retention level does not mean that flood control measures will not still be in place. He said those are separate sections of the regulations.

Realtor Paula Palmer said she could find only three affordable new homes here, but many north of town and in Cleveland and North Georgia. She said costs affecting developers, including stormwater rules, are a key factor.

Habitat for Humanity officials said strict retention standards with attendant costs harm the non-profit's ability to help poor residents achieve home ownership. 

Engineer Mike Price said the city will still be "environmentally conscious" with the one-inch requirement. He said the county's standard was three-fourths of an inch.

Ms. Kurtz said dropping to the one-inch level for South Chickamauga Creek will put the city out of compliance with its MS4 permit. She said no one has stated what steps will be taken to get it back into compliance.

Paula Wilson said the fact of a lack of affordable homes "is more of a poverty problem." She said employers here don't pay enough.

Dr. Barbara Miller, who was formerly over flood management for TVA, said of steps that will be needed to get the city back into compliance "there has been no mention of what those actions will be, what they will cost, or who will pay for them."

Helen Burns Sharp of Accountability for Taxpayer Money said no reason was given by city officials are pushing for the change.

She said realtors and homebuilders have been "at the table" with the city, but not those opposed to dropping the standard. 


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