Creating LID within high-density development

How do you meet the requirements for stormwater while still encouraging development in a high density area? It would be great to see planners take a proactive approach by rezoning specific sections of land to have shared stormwater mitigation areas.

  1. Areas encourage high density development through rezoning. Rather than struggling to meet the density requirements while sectioning off enough space for stormwater management, a developer is given the higher density zoning and has a clear expectation of their mitigation for impervious area. In urban growth areas, this creates incentive for localized living areas and brings in more space for the ever increasing population.
  2. Stormwater best management practices are more realistic. Federal and state level policymakers are leaning more towards integration of low impact development (LID) systems for stormwater management. The benefit is that natural systems are replicated, but a major con is the space requirement for installation. Right now, projects are handled individually, with the exception of developers who realize they are building next to each other and combine their stormwater systems. What usually ends up happening is stormwater management is streamlined through baseline requirements (i.e. detention tanks), but not preferred approaches (i.e. infiltration ponds, bioswales, etc.) due to space requirements. Having a pre-designated stormwater management area for a cluster of high-density development creates the space needed for LID.
  3. Quality of life is integrated into community planning. There is a need for more housing, but in order to keep people within an area, there needs to be the appeal of community. Quality of design is important, but also the layout of the locality. Having a space set aside for LID gives room to for a dual purpose: natural area for community enjoyment and mitigation for impervious area.

Current regulations tend to be more in favor of developments with low density and greater area to meet critical area and stormwater management requirements. For urban growth areas or places where high density would be successful (near transit, etc.), one possible solution is to proactively section off areas for development and set aside one large, combined area that developers can improve to meet requirements for stormwater mitigation. This requires collaboration on behalf of planners, stormwater reviewers, policymakers and developers but in the end, has the potential to create a more thoughtful layout for all parties involved. Environmental requirements are met, high-density development is encouraged, expectations for mitigation are clearly specified and consumers have a community with natural areas for personal enjoyment.

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About miriamhacker

A native to the Pacific Northwest, Miriam completed both her undergraduate and graduate studies in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington. Her current research interests focus on the relationships between cultural understanding and access to sanitation technology as well as social sustainability in international development. Prior to her doctoral studies, Miriam worked in stormwater regulation for a local municipality. Outside of research, Miriam enjoys volunteering with a local non-profit organization, exploring local coffee shops and watching professional basketball.

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