City of Fife takes the lead in mandating implementation of low-impact development as part of holistic approach


FIFE, WASHINGTON: The Fife City Council recently took a bold step to encourage low-impact development (LID) for all construction projects within the city.

The decision to incorporate LID techniques into the city’s code makes Fife one of the few to do so.

“What Fife is doing by adopting this ordinance is really setting the bar,” said consultant Brice Maryman of SvR Design. Maryman’s firm was contracted to develop the standards.

“You’re going to be really far ahead of a number of agencies,” Maryman said. “Fife is really being a leader in this.”

The LID standards are part of the city council’s initiative to develop a more holistic approach to addressing stormwater, an issue that is especially important to low-lying Fife. Low-impact development offers strategies that emphasize the use of natural conditions and features to maintain a more hydrologically functional landscape.

For example, instead of using storm ponds to collect excess runoff from impervious surfaces such as buildings or pavement, a developer could opt for pervious pavement, which allows water to seep through into the ground, or roof gardens, which would collect and soak up rainwater.

Under the new requirements, low-impact techniques would be required as part of all stormwater drainage permits within the city. There is a provision in the requirements allowing for developers to apply for an exemption, which will be reviewed by a third party at the expense of the applicant.

“I personally feel this is a real milestone for us,” said Mayor Barry Johnson.

Johnson noted that the ordinance comes two years after the council first made a holistic approach to stormwater a priority.

“I think this gets us there,” he said.

An early version of the proposal offered a discount to developers who included LID techniques in their design, but council members rejected it as not strict enough.

“[The new version] isn’t just encouraging the use of low-impact development, it is our standard,” said Councilmember Butch Brooks. “I think that’s what’s separating us from the pack here and I’m glad to see it.”

The Washington State Department of Ecology commended the council for the direction it is taking, stating the decision puts Fife at the cutting edge nationally.

“It’s true that we are setting the bar high. It’s true that others will look toward us and what we’re trying to do to become a ‘green’ establishment,” said Councilmember Nancy de Booy. “I’m happy to see that…I think we’re serious about doing this and being the best city we probably can and to protect the residents.”

The council voted 6-0 to add the LID standards to its code Dec. 9. They will vote on the standards a final time in January.



This article by Meghan Erkkinen was originallly published online by the Fife Free Press on December 18, 2008.