Officials hear details of riparian setbacks



The setbacks help with flood and erosion control, the speaker said.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- Riparian areas, streams and wetlands act as sinks for stormwater, and when they're replaced with impervious surfaces, it contributes to flooding, the leader of a Northeast Ohio watershed group says.
Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, director of the Chagrin River Watershed Partners, spoke Tuesday to Mahoning County zoning inspectors, township officials, developers and residents about proposed riparian setbacks.
The setbacks are property next to a watercourse within which building cannot occur. They're used to protect the floodplain, decrease flooding, limit stream bank erosion and reduce water pollution.
"Most of the work done in Ohio [regarding riparian setbacks] was pioneered by the Chagrin River Watershed Partners," said Marilyn Kenner, chief deputy at the county engineer's office.
Dreyfuss-Wells said watercourses affected by state and local regulations are those with a defined bed and a defined bank. She added that every stream has a floodplain.
Wetlands, streams and riparian areas absorb runoff, Dreyfuss-Wells said.
When one of those areas is replaced with an impervious surface, such as an asphalt parking lot, it becomes a source of stormwater and its pollutants. That results in more stormwater and flooding, she said.
The meeting, at the Boardman government center, was organized by officials from the township, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and the county engineer's office.
The Chagrin River Watershed Partners, formed in 1996, is a coalition of cities, villages, townships, counties and park districts within the Chagrin River Watershed.
Model ordinance
Late last year, a multiagency panel including Eastgate, Boardman and the engineer's office, developed a model ordinance presented to the county's township officials. The ordinance establishes riparian setbacks and would limit stream bank erosion and reduce water pollution.
The idea is for all county townships to adopt similar zoning regulations. Boardman is the first to begin that process.
The county planning commission tabled a vote last month of a recommendation of Boardman's ordinance. Members said they wanted more time to study the issue.
The commission is set to hear the township's presentation at a meeting next week.
Building restrictions
Under the regulations, building is restricted within a certain distance from a watercourse, such as a stream. Distance required is based on the size of the watershed into which the watercourse drains. The smaller the watershed, the closer to a watercourse building may occur; the larger the watershed, the greater the distance required.
The setbacks, similar to front and side yard setbacks, slow stormwater, storing it and releasing it slowly, Dreyfuss-Wells said. That helps with flood and erosion control as well as providing water quality protection, she said.

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