The Chattanooga City Council passed the proposed changes to stormwater regulations on final reading and renamed a downtown street at its most recent meeting. (Photo: Staff)

On Tuesday night, Chattanooga City Council members finalized their votes on proposed stormwater regulations, which ignited debate within the community in previous weeks, and renamed a downtown street to honor a local civil rights activist.

Stormwater regulations
During last week’s meeting, the City Council made the first move toward approving proposed changes to the city’s stormwater stay-on-volume regulations by passing the ordinance on a first reading. During the council’s most recent meeting, members passed the ordinance on a final reading with a 9–0 vote.

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The ordinance proposes changing the current SOV regulation from the first 1.6 inches of rainfall to the first 1 inch.

Currently, the 1.6 inches only applies to new, impervious surfaces.

One-inch SOV is also the state standard for this kind of regulation because the untouched ground is able to filter water at this rate naturally.

Now, the Department of Public Works will begin looking into how this regulation change might affect the city’s compliance with Environmental Protection Agency regulations and if any measures need to be taken in order to remain in compliance.

During last week’s meeting, Public Works Administrator Justin Holland told the council that changes would need to be made to the city’s water quality programming in order to remain in compliance with EPA regulations.

However, following this meeting, both District 3 Councilman Ken Smith and Holland said no changes need to be made if the new regulations are found to have no impact on water quality.

“We look at our programs as a whole to make sure we stay in compliance,” Holland said. “With the new legislation, all we need to do is to make sure everything that we do is in compliance … If we’re in compliance, then we wouldn’t have to change anything.”

Smith explained that this outcome may be a likely one.

“Going from 1.6 to 1 still only affects brand-new impervious surfaces,” Smith said. “So if in the next six months there are no new developments, nothing has changed; there’s zero impact that could even be measured. So there’s nothing else to do to remain in compliance, because we may not even have any changes in development.”

Renaming University Street
Also on the council’s agenda for its most recent meeting was a resolution to rename a portion of University Street between McCallie Avenue and East 10th Street to James R. Mapp Street.

Mapp was a major civil rights activist in Chattanooga who was notable for his term as the Tennessee NAACP president and for his work in a 26-year lawsuit to desegregate Chattanooga schools.

Mapp died in 2015, but his family attended the council meeting.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of something so amazing,” District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd said during the meeting. “I feel so honored to get to be up here and be a part of this.”

Other matters
Other topics also addressed during the Nov. 28 council meeting include:

  • First reading of an ordinance that would rezone a major plot of land for housing developments on Dayton Boulevard and was previously deferred after residents expressed concerns over a traffic increase
  • A resolution allowing the city to accept a donation of a 9.88-acre plot of land where an old railroad used to be in order to extend the Tennessee Riverwalk
  • Comments from citizen and social activist Helen Burns Sharp, who outlined five things that she hopes City Council will watch over and keep transparent, such as procedures for payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements and transactions over a parking lot on King Street that was transferred from city property in 2016

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or by tweeting her @alinahuntergrah

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