The Charlotte City Council has unanimously approved a six-month extension of a program that allows developers to pay a mitigation fee instead of constructing costly on-site storm water management systems. REBIC applauds the action as a way to maintain an alternative compliance option that can provide economic incentives for small-site redevelopment.
First adopted in 2011, the Post-Construction Controls Ordinance (PCCO) Mitigation Fee program is aimed at helping developers of small commercial sites by allowing them to contribute to the cost of public offsite improvements rather than installing onsite systems such as retention ponds, which often must be located underground because of site constraints. The fees collected ($60,000 for the first acre, $90,000 for each additional acre) are used by the City to make system improvements within the same basin as the development, from stream bank restoration to the purchase of private property in floodplains.
Over the past 2 years, the City has collected $898,000 in mitigation fees from 10 redevelopment projects totaling $14 million in value that chose to pay the Mitigation Fee in lieu of constructing onsite controls. The revenue was used to fund 6 public stormwater projects that might otherwise not have been completed, including wetlands restoration near McAlpine Creek and 3 new ponds in north Charlotte.
The Mitigation Fee program was adopted with a sunset provision of April 30, 2014, and city staff proposed a 5-year extension early this year. But because of a new state law that makes it more difficult for local governments to adopt environmental regulation, Council needed to give its unanimous consent for the initiative to continue.
The extension approved this week allows the program to continue until October 31, 2014, during which time city staff, environmental advocates and development industry representatives will conduct a review of how it may be improved. Councilman John Autry was instrumental in authoring the compromise extension, after expressing reservations about the impact of the program in helping to restore Charlotte’s impaired streams.