Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stormwater management regulations

At our October 20 Planning Board meeting, we voted to approve recenty drafted Stormwater Management regulations. These regulations were the administrative back-end of the stormwater management article that Town Meeting passed in May.

Managing stormwater run-off is important, because it protects the property investments of individuals and protects our common water resource. Improper management of stormwater can wreak havoc on individual property owners, cause flooding and water pollution. Who wants their basement constantly flooding whenever it rains, or their front yard to pond throughout the year?

Good stormwater management planning during (or after) construction can prevent these kind of issues, which can become costly for individual property owners and the town. That's why our existing bylaws for subdivision development, garden apartments, and others include provisions requiring developments to address stormwater management. Land development that falls outside of existing bylaws are not covered, however, and to meet federal requirements Town Meeting adopted an article that requires stormwater management planning for land disturbances of an acre or more (an acre or more of actual land is dug up) in cases when such disturbance is not already covered under the stormwater management sections of our subdivision bylaws, garden apartments bylaws, etc.

The regulations were drafted with the help of a grant Hopkinton received, which allowed the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), a regional planning entity, to work with Hopkinton. Several local volunteers met numerous times over the summer with MAPC specialists to learn about stormwater management and to draft the implementing regulations for the 2008 Town Meeting Stormwater Management article. The local volunteers brought up many issues and concerns during the meeting and the final draft reflected all the input.

The Planning Board held a Pulic Hearing on the Regulations, which included a joint meeting with DPW and Conservation Commission to review the draft in September. Then, based on input from that review, the draft was revised to streamline the regulations as much as possible. In the final meeting of the public hearing last Monday, October 20, a few additional changes were made to further streamline the regulations and reduce unnecessary administrative burdens on individuals involved in land disturbances of an acre or more not covered by the stormwater management provisions of existing bylaws.

I was comfortable with the final version that we voted on, and appreciated all the work of the DPW, Conservation Commission and other town representatives on the committee that worked with MAPC. One learning of the Planning Board public hearing: crafting regulations that remove as much ambiguity, to avoid confusion when they are actually applied, can result in very specific language, lists of exceptions and exclusions, and references that add to the heft of the regulations, while actually minmizing the administrative burden by offering very clear and specific guidance and process.

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