May saw final City Council action on the important stormwater rules revisions that have been under development for most of two years.
Stormwater rules adopted: After an extended technical and public review process, the City Council in May adopted the long-awaited updates of our stormwater management ordinances. The changes are designed to both improve water quality in the streams (and ultimately the reservoirs) which get the runoff from our streets and lots, and to help control flooding of homes and businesses within the city. To achieve these goals, the new rules will require more new developments (both commercial and residential) to include strong stormwater controls. Example controls include vegetated setbacks (buffers) from streams, grassy swales to carry water, holding ponds, and other engineered techniques, or reduced paved surface areas when that is a practical alternative. Because these controls can increase the cost of development, the Council included limited exemptions for smaller developments from some of the stronger requirements, in order to reduce per-home cost impacts. However, the Council was also determined to go beyond minimum state requirements, recognizing that downstream homeowners and other residents should not be required to carry the financial burden of increased flooding damage from new upstream developments. I worked to help put together the most reasonable compromises we could craft in this difficult area, and strongly supported the final result.
Budget review begins: The City Council began its annual city budget review process at Finance Committee workshops and a public hearing during the last two weeks of May. The city manager's proposed budget this year recommends an unchanged property tax rate, in deference to the difficult economic times being faced by many of our city's households. Council members are predisposed to try to avoid a tax rate increase, but if we do so, it will require important service improvements—from public safety to transportation—to be postponed. Continued discussion and public review of our options will take place during the first half of June, with a final Council vote anticipated at the June 16 meeting.
Crime update and neighborhood watch appeal: During May, the Police Department gave an update on the rise in property crimes and robberies which have been seen across the city in recent months. The strategy of intensified patrols of identified "hot spots" has produced good short-term results in targeted areas. However, there are additional areas which have been identified as needed similar attention, and the enhanced patrol areas are being shifted as a result. For longer-term improvements, police are also appealing for more neighborhoods to launch Neighborhood Watch programs. By supplementing police patrols with alert citizen observation, reporting, and neighbor-to-neighbor communications, these watch programs can produce sustained declines in neighborhood crime problems. Watch organizations in up to the 50-home range are considered ideal. For more information, contact the WSPD Neighborhood Watch coordinators at 773-7944 or 773-7935.