Nonprofit group suggests changes to cities’ stormwater ordinances

A nonprofit organization is urging Clayton County municipalities to amend their stormwater ordinances in part to help preserve the quality of water flowing into the Flint River. (Special photo)

JONESBORO — A nonprofit organization is suggesting changes to stormwater ordinances in Clayton County cities, and may be getting traction.

American Rivers representatives have spoken to governments in Riverdale and Morrow about updating their stormwater ordinances to allow for more rainwater to be absorbed into the ground, rather than collect on paved surfaces and mix in with pollutants.

Jeremy Diner, clean water supply associate for American Rivers, said the changes, among others, are intended to ensure the health of the Flint River.

“The Flint has run dry in the past,” Diner said. “We’re doing this because this is good for the river. By allowing stormwater to soak into the ground and transfer through it, we’re ensuring water will be in the river long after the most recent rain.”

According to the nonprofit organization, stormwater becomes a problem when it is unable to be naturally absorbed into the ground.

“This happens when the land is covered by roads, sidewalks, houses, office buildings and even grass yards - also known as impervious surfaces,” the nonprofit group stated in a press release.

According to American Rivers, water pollution can occur when impervious surfaces cover as little as 10 percent of the ground.

Proposed changes were given to the city of Morrow at its last meeting in the form of a sample ordinance that was not voted on by the city council.

Among the changes proposed is a 50-foot buffer from the upland boundary of all jurisdictional wetlands, as determined by federal law, contiguous to intermittent or perennial streams.

Other proposed changes included a smaller minimum parking space. Currently, parking spaces in Morrow must be, at a minimum, 9.5 feet wide and 19 feet in length. The proposed changes reduce that minimum to 9 feet wide and 18 feet in length.

Current compact car parking spaces in Morrow must be, at a minimum, 8 feet wide and 17 feet long.

The changes would reduce the minimum length by 1 foot to 16 feet.

Diner said he has consulted other cities, such as Forest Park, which has agreed to make a number of changes to its stormwater ordinance.

Among the changes, minimum low density street width was changed from 32 to 22 feet, minimum right-of-way for residential streets from 50 to 45 feet, minimum radius for cul-de-sacs from 75 to 35 feet, unless a landscaped island exists in the middle, the allowance of T-shaped “hammerhead” cul-de-sacs and a regulation explicitly banning stormwater from being discharged into wetlands without being pre-treated.

“They’ve set the bar so far in Clayton County,” Diner said of Forest Park.

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