Charlotte, North Carolina, long known as the Queen City for its namesake Queen Charlotte Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, is today more like a green infrastructure crown jewel for the Southeast. Their city council has taken bold steps to push water quality and green infrastructure to the top of city priorities.
Among Charlotte’s green initiatives are:
- 50% tree canopy by 2050
- All waters swimmable and fishable by 2050
In addition, the city employs in-lieu fee programs for stormwater, tree save and natural area requirements. In-lieu fees are monies paid by developers that cannot meet requirements, which are then used to implement environmental programs. That money has preserved 70 acres of trees in the last year alone.
While politicians, upper-level management and citizens may see green infrastructure as important, that doesn’t mean the framework for implementation is in place.
The City’s Urban Forester, Tim Porter, and Water Quality and Environmental Permitting Program Manager Marc Recktenwald, spoke at the NC Green Industry Council’s Green Infrastructure Water Symposium in mid-June. In their tag-team presentation, they spoke about how each is working to implement the city’s green initiatives and where challenges lie.
“Trees are a part of the equation, not an answer to everything,” said Tim. “We have data, we know where there’s asthma [and the need for more trees], now we need to develop policy.”
As Tim points out, his urban forestry program controls public land, that’s just 10-12% of the total. “We must go onto private property to get to 50% by 2050.”The other area of focus is as he calls it “getting over the trees-are-good mentality“ and into the specific reasons why trees are good. By focusing on specifics like stormwater management, air pollution mitigation and crime, trees then take on a whole new level of importance. TreesCharlotte is an important partner in implementing long term policy. Trees are an important part of moving the environmental initiative needle, he said.
Marc explained that about half the time developers pay their way out of environmental rules by paying fees in-lieu. The goal is swimmable/fishable waters by 2050, but in reality the goal is far away. But progress is happening. Since 2008, the private sector has installed 450 stormwater BMPs. About 10% of them were installed in areas of redevelopment, which represents water runoff from impervious surfaces that is now treated, whereas before redevelopment it was not.
NewTerrain July 15, 2016.