New Tools To Protect Water Resources

Better Site Design


Written By Barbara Kendall, Stormwater Outreach Specialist

Hudson River Estuary Program, NYSDEC Region 3


Summertime water shortages.   Fall floods.   Collapsing stream banks.   How can municipalities address these challenging local problems?

There is a new set of tools called "Better Site Design Principles" that local governments can use to begin to address these issues.   Twenty-three Better Site Design Principles aim to protect natural areas, reduce impervious surfaces (buildings, roads, parking lots and driveways), and better integrate stormwater treatment.   By limiting impervious surfaces
and treating stormwater on-site, more rainfall can infiltrate into the soil and recharge important groundwater resources.   By protecting natural areas and reducing impervious surfaces in new development, stormwater runoff will be reduced, leading to less flooding and reduced impacts on our streams, rivers and wetland habitats.

The Better Site Design Roundtable Process

In 2005, the Hudson River Estuary Program sponsored the first Better Site Design Roundtables in New York State through a partnership with the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council, the Wappingers Creek Watershed Intermunicipal Council, and the Dutchess County towns of Clinton and Wappingers.   The Better Site Design Roundtable process uses a "Code and Ordinance Worksheet" to analyze local codes for provisions that relate to better site design.   Based on the results of the
worksheet, local stakeholder committees then develop and come to consensus on recommendations for local code changes that incorporate better site design provisions in zoning, site plan, and subdivision laws.

An example of a local code change in the Town of Wappingers relates to Principle #4 - Cul-de-sacs.   The prevailing street and sidewalk regulations required that, "The circular-shaped turnaround shall be completely paved with no center island."  The local committee recommended that this provision be removed from the code and that new language be added to allow for alternatives, such as landscaped center islands and bioretention areas designed for stormwater treatment.  An added benefit for the Town of  Wappingers is that, by adopting the committee's recommended code changes for Principles #19 - Clearing and Grading - and #22 - Stormwater Outfalls - the town will meet the requirements for erosion and sediment control and stormwater management local laws as a regulated municipal separate storm sewer (MS4) community.

In the Town of Clinton, Principle #15 - Open Space Management - provides an example of the work of the local committee.  The Town of Clinton already has open space and cluster development provisions in its subdivision regulations.  However, management of open space is not clearly defined in the code.  The local committee recommended that a new committee be formed to explore potential updates to the subdivision regulations and zoning law to specify allowable uses of open space and define open space management requirements.

The final recommendations are summarized in two documents: Town of Clinton: Recommended Model Development Principles for Protection of Natural Resources in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed and Town of Wappinger: Recommended Model Development Principles for Protection of Natural Resources in the Hudson River Estuary Watershed, June, 2006, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Hudson River Estuary Program. As well as specific local code recommendations, the documents also include numerous general references that make the process applicable to local land use law and required stormwater regulations throughout New York State.

The Recommended Model Development Principles are available from the NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program.  Please contact Barbara Kendall at 845-256-3163 or for a copy.  Specify which document you are interested in - the Town of Clinton is a rural community, and the Town of Wappinger is a suburban community.

The Roundtable process discussed here was conceived from the publication Better Site Design:  A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community.  1998, The Center for Watershed Protection, Ellicott City , Maryland .

Barbara Kendall

Stormwater Outreach Specialist

Hudson River Estuary Program

NYSDEC Region 3

21 South Putt Corners Road

New Paltz, NY 12561-1620

845-256-3163 (phone)

845-255-3649 (fax)