UBJ Guest Column by Jamie McCutchen:
Stormwater drainage change could
eliminate major development deterrent
City of Greenville leaders will begin discussing in earnest next month potential changes to stormwater drainage requirements that should have positive outcomes for business and the environment. While stormwater doesn’t seem like a big issue for the average person, in my world it is a major design and construction element to the real estate development community and in particular how Greenville will be built in the years to come. The issue stems from a landmark decision by the Planning Commission this spring to rule in favor of an appeal from a property owner over parking lot drainage. Before 2013, if an owner wanted to make a change to a part of a property, it only pertained to that location. For example, if a drive-thru was added on the side of a building, then only that part of the parking lot had to meet the stormwater requirements. However, City Council enacted a new ordinance on Jan. 1 of this year that stated if 10,000 square feet or more of a parcel was paved or changed then the entire parcel had to meet these new stormwater regulations. In theory, it was a good idea that would make Greenville more environmentally friendly. But unfortunately it had major drawbacks. In some ways the new law was akin to if you wanted to put a new window in your home, you would have to change every window in your home regardless of condition. The drawback became evident when we began work on the new Chuy’s Restaurant on Woodruff Road. This parcel was first developed in the early 2000s and was subsequently annexed into the city. When KDS Commercial Properties began dialogue with Chuy’s last year regarding this location, it was quickly decided more parking was needed. It was an easy proposition because there was an existing 0.25-acre gravel portion of the property that was planned for parking for 42 vehicles and just needed to be paved. However, the new regulations meant that the entire lot (an additional three acres) had to meet the new stormwater requirements. This made the project financially infeasible by adding significant, unbudgeted expenses. We recommended that our client appeal the law and request a variance. After a detailed presentation and extensive deliberation to fully understand the complex issue and potential negative economic impact on future development throughout the city, the Planning Commission granted the variance. In addition, the Commission further recommended that city staff change the ordinance. To that end, the city staff has recently completed a proposed change to the ordinance to resolve this issue and make it more conducive for development, but remain a strong tool for the environment. The changes will go to City Council in the coming months for final approval. And that deserves some praise, because city staff recognized the concerns of the business community and is willing to work with businesses to make this a better situation.
Jamie McCutchen, PE, is the president of CCAD Engineering and a broker with KDS Commercial Properties where he specializes in land sales and development of commercial properties. He can be reached at 864-250-9999.