In addition to reviewing the land use regulations of towns, the NEMO team created an interactive online “Story Map” allowing users to explore the data further (http://s.uconn.edu/stateoflid). The story map combines interactive maps, text, graphics, photos and other media to tell a more compelling story than could otherwise be done by a publication or website. Through the story map you can review the recommend changes to local land use regulations and explore which of those are most (and least) common in CT. It also serves as a database of LID regulations in the state, al-lowing towns to search for where LID-friendly regulations have been adopted and link directly to the actual text and page number. Which makes stealing from your neighbors easy, productive and encouraged. So steal away. Visit the Story Map at http://s.uconn.edu/stateoflid.
Extension faculty at CLEAR are creating Story Maps for their projects, inspired by the successful maps of Emily Wilson. Dave Dickson has created one, called the State of Low Impact Development in Connecticut, which describes the results of research done over the summer of 2015 by CLEAR’s NEMO Project on the use of “low impact development” practices in Connecticut towns. The Story Map not only tells a compelling story, but also can be used as a research tool by town planners and others, since the interactive maps provide direct links to various town documents that pertain to low impact development. Cary Chadwick worked with CAHNR graduate student Mike Evans to create The Bears are Back, a Story Map on his research investigating the growing population and distribution of black bears in Connecticut (photo here, wildlife camera traps were set up at several sites to catch digital photographs of visitors to the site). Emily has created another Story Map with Extension Educator Joel Stocker, called Explore Connecticut’s Changing Shoreline, which looks at historical changes to Connecticut’s coastline from 1934 to the present by carefully comparing historic and current aerial imagery. CLEAR’s Extension crew are confident that this new technology will help them to bring their research and outreach efforts to an ever-growing audience. View all of the Story Maps at: clear.uconn.edu/storymaps.
Connecticut towns are increasingly recognizing the impact of stormwater runoff on water quality. Low impact development (LID), also called green stormwater infrastructure, is a major strategy to address these issues. The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program at the Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) has been working with towns on these issues since 1991. With NEMO’s 25th anniversary looming and a major revision of Connecticut’s stormwater regulations in the process of being finalized, NEMO, with the help of a UConn Extension intern, recently completed a 9-month study on the status of LID adoption in towns across the state.
LID is a broad strategy involving a number of stormwater practices designed to infiltrate runoff back into the ground, reducing flooding, erosion, and water pollution problems. These strategies include permeable pavements, green roofs, bio retention areas, and other practices designed to reduce impervious cover. Some towns have updated their regulations to allow for or even require the use of these practices where feasible. Others however have lagged behind and actually have regulations that discourage or prohibit developers, often inadvertently, from pursuing them. NEMO’s study sought to get a better handle on the progress made on this front.
The NEMO study had two phases. In Phase One, NEMO research assistant Manon LeFevre conducted exhaustive (and exhausting) internet research on the land use plans and regulations of 85 of CT’s 169 towns (the number of towns was dictated by available resources and is not a scientifically random sample). Towns were “scored” for the number of LID strategies that appeared in these documents, based on the 14 specific practices suggested in the 2009 NEMO guide Developing a Sustainable Community. A guide to Help Connecticut Communities Craft Plans and Regulations that Protect Water Quality.
In Phase Two, follow-up phone interviews were conducted for the vast majority (78) of these towns by Low Impact Development in Connecticut Manon and Kerrin Kinnear, an Extension Intern in the UConn Environmental Studies program. Kerrin and Manon doggedly pursued town planners and other municipal staff to ascertain the reasons why their town did or did not pursue LID, the greatest barriers they face related to this type of development, and if they had any recommendations for us.
As NEMO educators have long thought, the greatest driver of LID regulations at the local level are local champions—either staff or land use commissioners. Thus efforts to educate and empower those audiences are still the most effective way of making LID commonplace (table, lower left).
On the barriers side, cost and lack of educational opportunities about LID were the top vote getters (table, lower right). However, many of the barriers can also be viewed as education issues. The cost category also encompasses perceptions that LID is more expensive, although that is not always the case and education about the true costs could help that. Reluctant town staff were also among the top vote getters for barriers, but education directed at those audiences may also help allay some of their concerns. Finally, long-term maintenance was often cited as an area of concern and more could be done through education and assistance to help address that.
In sum, the results of the NEMO LID study provide some useful information to help guide the future municipal assistance efforts of CLEAR, CT DEEP, and others. Most towns in Connecticut seem to have at least some language related to low impact development (LID) in their plans and regulations, largely due to the work of dedicated local proponents. However, not all of this this leads to regulations outlining specific LID practices, and additional resources are needed, with incentive funding and education leading the list of needs. This project was partially funded by UConn Extension and CT DEEP.
Learn how UConn Extension is tying research to real life in your community through our 2015 Highlights of Extension.
If you deal with stormwater issues or land use planning, chances are you have heard the phrase “green infrastructure” mentioned a lot recently. It is rapidly replacing “Low Impact Development” (LID) as the phrase du jour in the stormwater biz. But before we all go willingly adopting this into our lexicon, we must first ask some pertinent questions.
1. What does green infrastructure mean?
If you Google (or Bing, if that’s how you roll) the phrase “green infrastructure” you will discover two related, but slightly different, definitions. Originally the term was used in land conservation circles to describe a planned and managed network of natural resources (forests, open space, waterways, etc.) in a community or watershed. The idea was that we can maximize the environmental benefits these areas provide to our communities by strategically planning where they are and how they can connect. This is very similar to what we have often referred to here at CLEAR as Open Space Planning.
More recently, the term has been adopted by the water quality world to refer to approaches that divert stormwater (i.e., rain/snowmelt) into natural areas, rather than directly into storm sewers (a.k.a. “grey infrastructure”). In doing so, you reduce the quantity impacts of stormwater (flooding, CSOs, etc.), as well as the quality impacts by removing pollutants through natural processes/filtering. Green infrastructure in this context includes utilizing rain gardens/bioretention, rain barrels/cisterns, green roofs, permeable pavements, bioswales, land conservation, urban trees and more.