Alternative development goes mainstream


A good hard rain in the Pacific Northwest's urban areas can be bad news for the environment. Storm water draining off rooftops and through gutters can carry pollutants, damaging streams and wildlife habitat. Now, a group of planners may have a solution. Called low-impact development (LID), it focuses on innovative ways to manage storm water by preserving or restoring native vegetation and soils, minimizing impervious surfaces and reducing runoff. Some LID engineering techniques use rooftop gardens, pervious pavement and localized bio-retention ponds - facilities that process and filter runoff on-site.

Builders and some planners in the West have been skeptical of the idea because it promotes development that in some cases contradicts local regulations, such as building wider roads. But state and local governments are introducing LID language in their regulations, and developers in cities like Olympia, Wash., and Portland, Ore., are focusing on projects that incorporate LID. "The biggest obstacle now is defining what's feasible for a specific community - technically, financially, legally," says Andy Haub, a project manager with the City of Olympia.

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Copyright © 2002 HCN and Rodika Tollefson