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Atlanta Council committee hits “pause” on tighter flood-control rule

A December 2015 file photo shows a major flood near Bobby Jones Golf Course in Buckhead. (File/Credit: Trina Jackson) A December 2015 file photo shows a major flood near Bobby Jones Golf Course in Buckhead. (File/Credit: Trina Jackson)

By Maggie Lee

An Atlanta City Council committee voted unanimously to proceed with minor updates to the city’s stormwater ordinance. A move to tighten up flood controls at some new developments will have to wait.

City residents, many as part of a grassroots organized effort around Mechanicsville, called Council’s Utilities Committee with perhaps a half-hour of comment urging members to insist on a new paragraph in city law that they say would help protect their neighborhoods. It would require certain new developments to build vaults or other infrastructure to hold stormwater longer. If stormwater stays in an underground vault, for example, it can be released more slowly into drains and won’t contribute to flooding.

A draft of the ordinance that was months in the making did include that paragraph requiring what’s called “extended detention.” But after a developers’ group complained, saying it would drive up the cost of housing, the city’s watershed department published a new draft, with the paragraph struck out.

Several developers signed onto an additional October letter asking the city to take time to study the question more.

And a pause is what the watershed department recommended, Commissioner Mikita Browning told the Utilities Committee on Tuesday morning, just ahead of the 7-0 vote.

The city has 10 watersheds, she said; and the topography and makeup of roofs and paved areas is different in different parts of town. She said the department would like to take the next few months to do additional engineering analysis and see what’s appropriate across the city.

“We definitely feel that a component for extended attention is needed, and it’s something that we definitely want to look to amend [in] the ordinance and include in the near future,” Browning said.  She said her department will look to bring those proposed amendments forward in about the next six months.

Otherwise, the ordinance mainly makes uncontroversial small changes and brings Atlanta into line with state stormwater rules.  Full Council could vote on it as early as Monday.

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Maggie Lee

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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