Stormwater is water that runs off the land, typically following rainfall, snow melt, or a leak or overflow. On landscapes impacted by human development, stormwater can carry sediment, fertilizer, harmful bacteria, oil, gas, toxic metals, and salt into nearby waterways. Water that runs into storm drains is water that is not available to nurture plants or recharge aquifers. The 2019 Acton Town Meeting Warrant has two warrant articles concerning stormwater and stormwater management. Green Acton recommends voting in favor of both of them.
Article #39 calls for amending Acton General Bylaw X, and Article #40 calls for amending the Zoning Bylaw. Both of these articles deal with stormwater that runs off the land during development or construction. No change is being proposed to Bylaw U, which deals with runoff that is not related to development, for example from car washing or a sump pump. Below is the full text of Green Acton’s recommendation, adopted by consensus of the Directors following study by the Water Committee:
Stormwater runoff, and the pollutants and sediment it carries, are woven throughout the fabric of our town. All buildings, all roads, — virtually all major human activities — impact the overland flow of water and the balance between runoff and recharge. Stormwater runoff impacts all of Acton’s natural waters, including streams, wetlands, and groundwater. As a consequence, legal and regulatory management of stormwater is fragmented across local and state laws and regulations, as well as through the efforts of various bodies within our Town’s jurisdiction.
Town Engineer Paul Campbell has proposed a comprehensive overhaul of this regulatory regime, which attends to how the different parts of this complex system interact. The comprehensive plan includes changes that will be good for the environment, including designing for a 25-year storm rather than a 10-year storm, being more specific about how runoff and recharge are calculated, and requiring treatment for water quality before discharge offsite. Green Acton supports this plan.
However, not all elements of the comprehensive plan are in front of Town Meeting; they are spread across numerous bylaws and regulations. Green Acton is apprehensive about the sequencing of the proposed changes, which depend on additional votes that would have to take place after Town Meeting. In hopes of achieving the entire stormwater regulatory overhaul, Green Acton urges:
• Acton citizens to vote at Town Meeting in favor of articles 39 and 40 amending General Bylaw X and the Zoning Bylaw.
• The Acton Board of Selectmen to vote in favor of amending Chapter X rules and regulations so as to designate the Acton Department of Public Works as the Implementing Authority for Bylaw X and other changes, as proposed by Mr. Campbell.
• The Acton Conservation Commission to vote in favor of amending the Wetland Protection Rules and Regulations to align with Bylaw X.
• The Acton Board of Selectmen to vote in favor of amending the Site Plan Special Permit regulations to revise the drainage and water balance calculations requirements as proposed by Mr. Campbell.
• The Acton Planning Board to vote to amend the Subdivision regulations so as to require design for a 25-year rather than 10-year storm, and to amend the Groundwater Protection District regulations to remove vague wording and other revisions as proposed by Mr. Campbell.
• The Acton Zoning Board of Appeals to amend the Comprehensive Permit Rules & Regulations (aka, 40b rules and regulations) to require a standard way of calculating and documenting pre- and post-development recharge and other revisions as proposed by Mr. Campbell.
After careful study, Green Acton believes that this coordinated set of changes will be a substantial net improvement for Acton’s environment. The Town Meeting vote is only the beginning of this process, and these other Town entities will have to follow through as well for these benefits to be realized.