Framingham City Council Holding Public Hearing on Proposed Stormwater Management Zoning Ordinance Tuesday

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By Luke Canavan

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FRAMINGHAM – The Framingham City Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, April 6 on proposed amendments to City’s Land Disturbance and Stormwater Management Zoning Ordinance.

The 7 p.m. public hearing will be held remotely.

Written comments can be submitted to citycouncil@framinghamma.gov through Monday, April 5 at 5 p.m.

The Subcommittee on Planning & Zoning determined the existing Land Disturbance Zoning Ordinance meets most of the criteria required to be in compliance with federal regulations, but minor revisions are needed to meet full compliance with theStormwater MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System) regulations.

The following seven items detail the final draft of potential changes:

  1. Insertion of submittal requirements (as suggested by VHB Consulting) – this was removed from the document since it is already incorporated into the Planning Board Rules & Regulations
  2. Addition of definitions, minor revisions, previously not in Ordinance
  3. Addition of Drainage Connection Permit (this has been removed since DPW prefers to separate this out of the ordinance and draft as a policy)
  4. Addition of definition of purpose & intent
  5. Addition of existing properties that had disturbed 43,560 of land being included in ordinance if illicit discharge occurs
  6. Non-criminal discharge clause 
  7. As built requirements defined for occupancy permit

At the City Council meeting on March 30, District 2 Councilor Cesar Stewart-Morales proposed a referral to the Environmental Sustainability Subcommittee and suggested that subcommittee take a closer look at the plan and pay close attention to the protection it provides for the environment.

But City Council Planning & Zoning subcommittee Chair Christine Long was against that idea.

“I feel that this actually violates the process that’s set down for referral of articles,” said Long, who represents District. “I don’t understand why there’s any more referrals on this. It’s been referred to the Finance Committee back to the City Council to the Planning & Zoning Committee.”

Long said that there has been ample time to analyze and recommend any changes to the Land Disturbance Zoning Ordinance, which has been going on since the beginning of November 2020.

“I think it would be helpful to our City to have this ordinance considered with a focus on the environment. I don’t believe that that’s happened yet,” said Stewart-Morales.

On December 7, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the modifications to the 2016 MA MS4 General
Permit. The Modifications become effective January 6, 2021.

On October 16, 2016, after lengthy internal meetings, several ongoing meetings with the Standing Committee on Planning & Zoning, and several public hearings, The Planning Board voted unanimously 5-0-0 to recommend favorable action on Article 30: Amend the Framingham Zoning By-law – Special Permit for Land Disturbance and Stormwater Management, to the final Fall Town Meeting held on
October 18, 2016. The bylaw passed unanimously.

Changes that were made at that time were done so to ensure that the municipality met compliance with the US EPA MS4 regulations.

The Framingham Engineering staff, more particularly Kerry Reed (stormwater engineer) and Eric Johnson (City Engineer), worked closely with the former Planning Board Administrator, Amanda Loomis, and the Framingham Planning Board, in making revisions to meet the MS4 requirements at that time so that the zoning ordinance could easily be later revised to reflect any future required updates.

The Land Disturbance and Stormwater Management zoning ordinance was revised and implemented with the understanding that further modifications to the MS4 regulations would most likely be forthcoming and finalized no later than January 2021 and that only minor revisions to the Land Disturbance and Stormwater Management ordinance would be necessary in the future.

The City Council’s Subcommittee on Planning & Zoning met on November 30, 2020, December 15, 2020, January 11, 2021, January 25, 2021, February 8, 2021 and February 22, 2021 to review this matter.

Participants in discussions included Blake Lukis, Director, DPW; Eric Johnson, City Engineer; Kerry Reed, City Stormwater Engineer; Michael Tusino, Building Commissioner; Kevin Shea, Director, Community & Economic Development; Robert MacArthur, Administrator,
Conservation Commission; Robert Bois, Chair, Conservation Commission; Kristina Johnson, Chair, Planning Board; subcommittee working group members Sean Silk, Brian Sullivan, Kathy Vassar, Susan Bernstein.

“A majority came to the conclusion that the existing Land Disturbance Zoning Ordinance currently already meets most of the criteria required to be in compliance with federal regulations and therefore, would only require minor revisions to meet full compliance with the most up-to-date Stormwater MS4 regulations,” wrote Long to Councilors on March 8.

“One major difference noted between the two was the inclusion of an enterprise fund that would have to be in a general ordinance since it is a provision that is not allowed in a zoning ordinance,” wrote Long to the City Council in March.

“The issue of pre-existing properties and Dover amendment properties were also main features of a general ordinance but were found to be able to be addressed through zoning,” wrote District 1 Councilor Long.

Lastly, “DPW felt that any other remaining items such as a Drainage Connection Permit would be handled better through policy
rather than including it in the zoning ordinance,” said Long, who chairs the City Council’s subcommittee on planning & zoning.

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Luke Canavan is a spring 2021 SOURCE intern. He is currently a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studies Communication and English. He is passionate about film, television, writing, and literature, and upon graduation, he hopes to work in the entertainment industry full-time, where he can pursue his love for storytelling.

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