Monday, December 3, 2007

Silver Beach Ordinance Redux: 2nd Meeting Citizens Task Force

WARNING: The following information is LONG, boring to many, incomprehensible to others, and history that repeats itself!

The Silver Beach Neighborhood recently debated adopting a list of policy measures to address the issue of protecting the Lake Whatcom Reservoir.
Many of the items on the list were recognizable as elements of earlier discussions during the deliberations on the City's 'Silver Beach Ordinance', designed in response to the Dept of Ecology's 303 (d) listing of the lake for fecal cliform and dissolved oxygen levels.
Some were adopted and incorporated into the Ordinance, while others were not for various reasons.

It may be useful to revisit those earlier discussions again as a reminder of what was considered during those initial eight public meetings, which resulted in a list of unanimous, or near-unanimous, recommendations that were adopted.
The adopted recommendations -from meeting No. 9- were the subject of my 8/8/07 blog.

This general subject was also discussed or rferenced in blogs from October 9, 12 & 13 and Dec 3
Meeting Summary from 5/30/2000:

1. All present except B. Ryan & B. Bliss

2. Handouts:
• Agenda
• DNR Notes
• Urbanization & Water Quality Notes
• Porous Paving Systems (several)
• Salmon in City excerpt
• Olympia Ordinance
• e-mail from CTF members:
JW – minutes of 5/16 meeting
- incentives & tradeoffs list
TF - ideas
JK - ideas
AR - ideas
JH - ideas
BB - ideas
MW - ideas

3. Brief review of agenda.

4. Review of purpose of meeting and CTF’s objective:
• Main focus of this Task Force is the SB Ordinance itself, adding flexibility and options without changing its intent or goal, which is to arrest or reverse further degradation to water quality in measurable terms.
• Much education about Lake issues is obviously happening here.
Other programs and efforts, such as The Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Plan 2000, are either already underway or will be coming soon. These will address many of the ideas expressed by CTF. We will collect all CTF ideas, then sort out those, which could be incorporated into the SBO. Other ideas will be saved and passed on to other programs.

5. Comments by participants:
• Major concern is SBO is too narrow a focus; needs to encompass entire watershed; overall jurisdictional body is needed with powers to effect necessary changes and institutionalize them against future whims. Macro, not micro approach.

• Lake has competing uses; difficult to set rules to cover all activities. If drinking water is #1 use, then that takes precedence over others. Must take a long-term view and consider whether maintenance will allow BMPs to remain functional over time. Suggestions regarding topography and proximity to lake as important parameters are good. Add soil composition to this mix; lawns may be getting an undeserved “bad rap”.

• SBO affects only a small % of watershed; maybe good example for rest. Agrees that if drinking water is #1 use, then that takes precedence over other uses.

• Agrees 1st objective is (protecting) drinking water, but wonders if SBO gets cart before horse. Education is urgently needed about use of fertilizers & pesticides, big sources of problems. Needs relief in trade- offs, perhaps in donating land in excess of 15% open space requirement. Seasonal limits on land disturbance are serious problem; maybe extend if BMPs are used. Agrees with most SBO provisions.

• Admittedly a poor politician; wants to know what science says- e.g. fuels in water at non-detectable level. Spent 2 months talking to people re Prop #1; many want something more done to protect drinking water & environment. Where is the County on this? Repeats suggestions to ban fertilizers, pesticides, old pilings, jet skis, uncontrolled fueling activities. Might volunteer to install a catch basin if shown to be helpful.

• Agrees with prior comments. It’s City’s job to adopt tough policy & strict regs, set example for County. CTF could prioritize main impacts, develop example. “”

• Agrees with prior comments. Everyone should be involved; not just SB. Consider stormwater fee credit for those affected by SBO.

• While banning chemicals, fertilizers and boats would help, the biggest impact on maintaining water quality is development itself. A moratorium should not be ruled out if time is needed to develop fair and effective regulations.

• Likes SBO; supports banning fertilizers, increasing public education and developing incentives & tradeoffs. Agrees SBO covers only small percent of users, but these are closest to the dirtiest water. Footprint limit is also in effect elsewhere. City needs to be first to protect lake, set example for County.

• Much info is available on plantings and impervious surfaces, but this still doesn’t address SBO flexibility refinements in a defensible way. SBO is a broad-brush approach now.

6. Questions & Discussion:
Q: How was 2000 sqft footprint determined?

• Lot size footprint @ 15%, which is watershed, targeted maximum impervious cover. 10 to 15% is recognized by science as threshold of impairing natural environment. (years of R&D in urban environments)
• 2000 sqft is common to typical floorplans, provides for up to maximum allowable size using multiple floor configurations. If pervious drives, etc are used, this provides for greater building footprint. Guarantees the right to build homes that are readily saleable, encourages use of BMPs. Combines opportunities for reasonable use and protection of public resource. Homes meeting these criteria are common already. Over 50% of remaining unbuilt lots in SB are of substandard size for the area zoning.

Q: Where does the CC want CTF to go? Recognizing we are an advisory group with narrow focus, how does this one ordinance fit into City’s overall plan?

• City is interested in all those policies & science that can be found to protect the water supply. The Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Program 2000 is a joint City/County/Water District attempt at doing that in a comprehensive way. Three goals were made priorities for 2000:

Land Use/Urbanization: The SB Ordinance directly addresses this goal with its four topics: Allowed Uses; Density; Lot Coverage; Land Disturbance. This is a key piece of the puzzle, and citizen’s involvement can provide vital conditioning to make it more effective.

Stormwater Management: This will be the subject of an upcoming ordinance upgrade and public process later this year.

Land Ownership: This goal is being addressed by another Citizens Task Force sponsored by the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Plan 2000.

The City recognizes that the overall problem of protecting the lake is complex and interrelated. However, all helpful actions, no matter how insignificant their effect may seem, are important to the overall solution. Eventually, the cumulative effect of all these practical, incremental changes will result in observable improvement in water quality trends and will more equitably spread costs and benefits among all watershed users.

Q: Why weren’t fertilizers & pesticides banned in SBO? It has been mentioned that SBO is “bare bones” and we are to condition it; what does the CC want to hear?

• Development IS the biggest impact to the watershed, but this isn’t a “silver bullet”, but other ideas also have big potential. The idea of “cumulative impacts” is a difficult concept to convey, because people prefer a simple solution (e.g. a structural control like a wastewater treatment plant). Often, with prevention as policy, land use related regulations or non-regulatory volunteer actions are more effective.
Removal of old pilings would help. Banning fertilizers & pesticides also has a big potential impact, if this could be encouraged or enforced on a widespread basis.
• What we’re after is a “A to Z” list of all ideas, whether regulatory, persuasive, educational, voluntary, opportunistic, incentive-based or otherwise. Then, these ideas can be put into the right forum for consideration. This is the first time a CTF has focused on land use matters. Anything is fair game. We don’t know all the possibilities or their feasibility yet.

Q: Notwithstanding the pros and cons of divergent interests, why hasn’t the City done this already?

• The CC believes the best approach to insuring water quality is protected is to first fine-tune SBO, then proceed with other actions like stormwater ordinance upgrade, watershed land ownership and the like as part of Joint Watershed Management Plan. It is always very helpful to hear public comments on a wide range of issues. Main focus here is best use of SBO.
• We are now hearing that the SBO is picking on a small % of citizens for a watershed-wide problem. The next impacted group will likely feel the same way. Eventually, everyone will share benefits and costs of a preserved water supply.
• Fertilizers & pesticides could have been banned, but difficult to define trade-offs without first modeling lake impacts to determine and quantify TMDLs. This is underway now and will eventually provide a predictive tool to control future development. The SBO doesn’t wait for this to happen, it is preventative.
• Two trade-off principles:
a) if reduce one item, then another limit can be altered
b) trade types of impacts (e.g. contamination Vs season/BMPs, or density or uses)
• Philosophy is to attack worst situation first (SB) since it is likely to respond more readily to these efforts. Demonstrated effectiveness helps in showing leadership by example.

Q: Why trade-off? Why not have both?

• Example of chemicals ban: education first is more effective, especially when depending on voluntary compliance. Bans may not be practically enforceable, education can shape behavioral changes, persuade neighbors.

Q: Many SB residents feel SBO was crammed down their throats; this created anger, adversarial situation, detrimental to cooperation. Feedback is they don’t want to feel guilty about living there and practicing normal habits.

• A part of CTF’s role is to represent residents concerns and to learn and communicate reasons for SBO to other residents.

Q: What is role of trade-offs in comprehensive plan? Citizens like to know rules, like speed limits. Must educate public on fertilizer use, and the like.
Combination of rules and education shows leadership.

• Currently there are no regulations banning lawns, therefore this represents a legitimate trade-off opportunity regarding natural vegetation, porous pavement, etc.
• Look at next lot to develop: If more than 2000 sqft are desired, how can this be achieved? Perhaps by agreeing to no artificial lawn, a pervious pavement driveway, and considering other BMPs or development right options, an accommodation can be reached that satisfies both SBO’s intent and homeowner’s needs.
• Refer to handout, “Urbanization & Water Quality -Chapter 4 Notes”:
“Tools of trade are BMPs”
- nonstructural controls – rely on natural features, uses of land
- structural controls – built after the fact, to mitigate effects
HINT: Look at big picture, but see from “Land Baron” perspective.
• Actions that ALL residents can do, not just NEW residents. Banning lawns (or volunteering to) could be considered as retrofits. They are occupancy activities, very difficult to apply equally. Last to build or move in always pays more. Mission is to use non-regulatory, voluntary actions, the more the better. Lake Whatcom is one of many watersheds with similar problems to be addressed. Everyone lives in a watershed.

Q: Can a series of small mitigation projects be used? Are effects measurable? (e.g., determine stormwater GPM, then increase capacity of system)

• These can be verified, but past record is not good. Example: old DOE SW rules specified 100% swale filter system, now increased to 140% to allow for function inefficiency. If prevention is goal, it’s good to over design, since theory is better than actual response. Study of various lots Vs hydraulic influences; conversion to natural vegetation, mimics or restores natural systems; effective, low maintenance costs, no cost to public, attractive, good habitat.

Q: Is this a good trade?

• It can be. See Olympia Ordinance example in handouts.

Q: Can you configure existing SW systems to handle new loads?

• 2-part problem: Construction & Built Living Units
Silt fences during construction don’t work well with fine silt, containing phosphate. Best result is 50 to 60% effective. Therefore, cheaper & easier to shorten construction season to avoid rainy season.

Q: If a new home using 15% impervious cover is built, does this negatively affect the lake?

• All new development has an impact, but this scenario would “carry its own weight” with neutral (minimal) effect on lake.
• The CC is OK with SBO provisions as they stand; they achieve our goals. If CTF finds other ways to achieve goals, great. Creativity can mitigate impacts, plus add flexibility to SBO.
• Because of area density and undersized lots, if a resident wants a larger retirement home, it might be more cost effective to just buy 2 lots rather than rely on BMPs. Consolidation of 2 lots would stand better chance of variance approval. (could restore land or consume development rights)

Q: Haven’t some effects of SBO been seen already?

• Looks like it from TSS tests at PP Drain. A statistical correlation of reduced TSS levels since SBO was enacted seems to indicate improvement.
Results were not correlated to rainfall or flow monitoring, but were also observed elsewhere. We were surprised at how quickly this was seen.

Q: What is average lot size in SB?

• Lots range from 5000 sqft to a 10-acre, unplatted tract, with majority in 7200 to 10,000 range. Lot sizes are 6000, 7200, 10,000, 12,000 & 20,000 sqft. Area intended as 1/2 acre zoning?, though many lots are substandard in size, per area density.
• There are just under 500 unbuilt lots remaining, both platted and unplatted. Majority are existing lots of record. Possible to downzone, but this may not accomplish intended goal. Lowest density in City is 1/20,000 sqft. Not very helpful, would penalize largest parcels; better to consolidate impervious surfaces to common area ~ cluster.

Q: Why is downzone an option?

• Errors made in past, significant subsequent changes since 1904, and potential public health concerns make this an option for consideration. A search of U.S. reveals many similar examples from OR to CT. There are 5-acre properties in watershed with worse impacts than these potentials.

Q: When was data taken, what are projections for housing in watershed?

• Data in the 1/24/00 CC packet shows statistics; about 790 homes are in SB now, 470 single family & 300 multi. Potential buildout for entire watershed per current zoning is 11,300 homes, of which 15% would be in City, mostly in SB.

Q: Was this info obtained from Assessor’s Office?

• Yes, for unbuilt, subdividable tracts; also counted lots with fee simple title. Market pressure indicates close to 100% buildout is likely over time, counting redevelopment of existing structures and public area.

Q: Is 15% imperious surfaces the goal for entire watershed?

• City & County maps show existing impervious surface (+/_ 15%) with highest areas about 23% and lowest 5%. Aerial photos are used, along with paper weighting techniques to arrive at these estimates.

• Without SBO controls, SB could ultimately achieve 24% impervious;
with SBO controls, about 17% impervious is possible. This is a potential 25% reduction in impervious surface; a big management opportunity for the City. (saves 36 acres out of 673 from becoming impervious)

Q: Everyone should have info from 1/24 packet to be on same page. (some info in workbooks, rest available from CC office)

Q: Have subsurface wetland flow models been used to determine if infiltration is possible?

• No, generally soil is too shallow, saturated and close to bedrock for this to be effective. Applicable in isolated cases only.

Q: Less inclined to increase impervious surface limits; could buy another lot to mitigate, or give credit for stormwater hookups, etc.

Q: Many already have homes. Others want what they have

• Possible enticing offer for new homes is to treat their impacts times 2. This may fit with policy of prevention.

Q: Possible to allow phosphate-free fertilizer?

• That would not be enforceable, like banning pesticides.

Q: Understands disallowing B&B’s, but ADUs seem to cause hardship among those needing to care for aging parents. Any exceptions?

• Impossible to satisfy everyone, but variance process might allow conversion of existing impervious surface, or trade of development rights for this use. ADUs create lasting population impact.
• A low impact ADU today can become an apartment tomorrow
• There are only 4 ADUs in SB now; additional ADUs could set undesirable precedent. May be OK if total impervious surface with an ADU is less than otherwise. Good example of how to view tradeoffs; a mix of fair & equitable parts and pieces that are feasible. CTF can do a brain dump of examples like this.

Q: Objective seems to be to pick items with biggest impact from a list compiled by CTF.

• A list of ideas will be compiled and distributed before next meeting, on June 13 in Planning Dept Conference Room. From this list, CTF can decide which can be implemented as part of SBO; saving others for referral to other programs.

Q: One document with specific items, rated 1-20 would be ideal.

• Ratings are up to CTF; comments on relative importance or feasibility should not be a source of embarrassment to anyone.
• A comprehensive list can assist diverse levels of understanding in seeing various options. Can add to list at any time.
• Prioritizing the list is a group activity; sort out the ones that cleanly fit our mission.

Q: Blackboard example; industrial sites typically segregate relatively clean roof water from other sources, like parking lots which need treatment before releasing. Analogy with lakeside home; why can’t runoff from a 4000 sqft home be collected separately and directed to lake through a dedicated drain? Uphill drainage already goes to a ditch for routing away from property.

• Good idea as far as it goes, but loss of vegetative buffer near waterfront is a negative. Also zinc or copper strips added for moss control might add toxics to runoff.
• Good example of “Ying & yang” of stormwater management;
-big source of lake pollution is air-borne wood smoke particles
-loss of benefit of vegetative buffer
-loss of best buffer area closest to shoreline
-roof drain is “clean”
-big ditch across road caries uphill drainage somewhere else
• Ball park analogy: expensive seats near ball field, cheaper seats in stands, luxury boxes well away from action, enclosed with TV view.

• Info from 1/24 packet available to those who want it.
• 20/20 Engineering available for presentation if needed
• Much info to read and chew on
• List of ideas to circulate before next meeting; our focus

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, June 13, 7-9pm in Planning Dept Conference Room

Meeting Dates:
Tuesday, June 13 (Planning Dept Conference Room)
Tuesday, June 27
Tuesday, July 11 (Board Room not available)
Tuesday, July 25
Tuesday, August 8
Tuesday. August 15 (final recommendations deadline)