Implementing Watershed-Based Community Planning in Coquitlam: Rainwater Management Requirements Represent a New Beginning
Source Control Implementation Challenges Led to a Refined Strategy
In December 2004, the City of Coquitlam adopted a Low Impact Development Manual to provide developers with direction.
“The requirements for restrictive covenants, securities and professional oversight for design and installation proved to be particularly difficult for single family home builders and home owners,” reports Jason Cordoni, the City’s Development Servicing Supervisor. “In April 2007, Council put a hold on the full implementation of LID measures until the City could demonstrate that the implementation of the measures met benchmark standards for their function.”
Back to the Drawing Board
In May 2007, Jim McIntyre (General Manager for Planning and Development) presented a report to Council that provided an overview of LID implementation experience, and recommended a strategy for updating and revising the LID Manual.
“We informed Council about our discussions with the development and construction industries and professional consultants about a number of LID implementation related issues. While we concluded that there was support for a natural systems approach to watershed management, we also recognized that a more balanced recognition of practical, administrative and cost constraints was needed,” states Jim McIntyre.
“To ensure that the City’s LID approach would be as effective as possible, while being practical and cost-effective, Council authorized staff to make significant refinements to the LID Manual.”
“The City then embarked on a consultative process that involved surveys, workshops and analysis. During this period, primary responsibility for rainwater management shifted from the Planning Division to the Engineering Division.”
Overview of the Renewal Process
“Throughout 2008 and 2009 the City conducted a survey of municipalities to find out what source controls were being used and how they were performing,” continues Melony Burton, the City’s Watersheds & Drainage Coordinator.
“Under direction from Peter Steblin, Coquitlam City Manager, a series of workshops was held with developers, consultants, engineers and stormwater experts from across Canada to work through the issues. The information gleaned from the workshops and survey was used to rework the LID manual into the Rainwater Management policy used today.”
Systems Approach & Net Environmental Benefit
The City of Coquitlam took a critical look at its rainwater management requirements and reaffirmed commitment to the watershed-based approach to community planning. The process culminated in the development and adoption of the Rainwater Management Design Requirements and Guidelines (March 2009).
In his March 2009 report to Council, Bill Susak (former General Manager of Engineering and Public Works) provided a synopsis of the renewal process and the outcomes. This report introduced Council to the concept of ‘net environmental benefit’.
“Developers and builders, (as well as the City) require certainty and timeliness in the setting of development requirements. As well, they require cost effective and practical approaches to environmental protection measures. This becomes even more important during periods of economic challenge,” wrote Bill Susak.
“The two Council goals of development and conservation should complement and facilitate each other. Accordingly, staff proposed a stakeholder-based process in order to build a more flexible and higher-value ‘made in Coquitlam’ approach to setting project specific environmental requirements.”
The “Made in Coquitlam” Approach
“The City renewed their commitment to watershed-based planning. This reflected the experience and work to date with Integrated Watershed Management Plans, in addition to knowledge gained from the source control workshops and survey,” stated Bill Susak in 2013.
“Council endorsed a new ‘systems approach’ philosophy which aims to offset impacts in one area of a watershed with gains in another for a ‘net environmental benefit’. The objective was to meet or exceed the standard of no net loss (of fish habitat) used by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.”
“The new requirements remove the burden of formal permitting, security or inspection for single family building permits. Larger developments are required to have professionals undertake and oversee the requirements with drainage works being regulated within the existing subdivision approval process,” explains Melony Burton.
“All applications are required to preserve the natural hydrologic regime to the greatest extent possible, but flexibility is built in for the City to accept equivalent or innovative measures.”
To Learn More:
The foregoing is extracted from the “Coquitlam story”, the second in the Watershed Case Profile Series released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability. To download a complete copy, click on Watershed Planning & Rainwater Management: Creating the Future in the City of Coquitlam.