City addresses erosion, runoff woes

In this city whose soils are counted among the most erosive on earth, municipal officials appear to be getting serious about erosion and stormwater runoff.

“With the rains we’ve had, and as more and more development is done on these difficult lots, we’re getting more and more erosion,” Mayor George “Pat” Patterson said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Aldermen.

The proposed erosion control measure notes the endangerment of water resources and aquatic habitat, damage to sewers and ditches, but the major impetus for the proposals seems to be runoff of unmanageable amounts of red clay and water onto nearby properties. Some developments on steep sites have seen erosion that seriously impacted downhill neighbors.

As proposed, builders must have approved erosion and sediment control plans in place before a permit is issued for any construction-related land disturbance. The proposed ordinance also establishes maximum slope angles, stabilization by mulch or vegetation, sedimentation structures, and stabilization of waterways.

The proposed stormwater ordinance will require new developments to retain runoff by infiltration (such as dry wells), vegetation or structures to an extent equal to the sites in their natural states. Sites would have to meet those requirements on up to a three-inch rain in one hour or up to a “hundred-year” rain (the heaviest sustained precipitation event that would be expected in a century’s span).

Builders would have to have approved stormwater plans in place before permits are issued.
Penalties for violations of the ordinances if adopted will range from stop-work orders and cleanup costs to misdemeanor criminal charges with possible 90-to-180 day jail terms.

“We’re going to tell the developers building on these lots it’s their responsibility to control (erosion and runoff), whatever that takes,” Patterson said.
Tuesday was the first reading for both proposals.

Alderman Janice Antonow suggested adding that large developments be required to do their grading and other soil disturbance in phases so soil is exposed less. City Attorney Pope Mallette also suggested the allowable time between permit issuance and the required onset of actual construction.

“We’re awfully long and generous in the time between the time you start grubbing and the time you have to build,” he said.

Aldermen will likely hold a public hearing July 1 on both proposals. Because it is a pressing issue in parts of the city, they may suspend their normal three-reading procedure and vote that same day.

Twitter: @oxfordcitizenec

About Errol Castens

I'm a news reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Focusing on Oxford and Lafayette County, I've been a part of the L-O-U community since 1991.