When it rains on undeveloped land, the water soaks naturally into the soil. But on land that has been paved over with impervious materials such as concrete, precipitation rushes downhill until it finds a place to go; we call this stormwater runoff. Without proper planning, that runoff can flood and erode creeks and streams, carrying with it bottle caps, gum wrappers, chemicals and other urban pollutants that might be hazardous to humans and wildlife.

To protect against the dangers of runoff, the city has enacted stormwater regulations such as a stream-buffer ordinance, which requires that new development be set at certain minimum distances from stream banks. But agreeing on those regulations has proven to be a long and contentious process.

In 2007, the City Council approved a stream-buffer ordinance that took a Stormwater Task Force four years to produce. But when the ordinance finally passed, most of those involved in its creation agreed that it was flawed and needed further review.


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