Berlin Stormwater Change Dependent On State Vote

BERLIN – A new Berlin stormwater ordinance emphasizing the preservation of natural run-off patterns is slated for approval by the town in the next few weeks.

The new stormwater approach has been mandated by the Maryland Stormwater Management Act of 2007, which calls for the use of Environmental Site Design (ESD) “to the maximum extent practicable.” ESD is an approach using nonstructural stormwater management and site design, “to mimic natural hydrological runoff characteristics and minimize the impact of land development on water resources,” as defined in legislation. 

“The bottom line is that municipalities have to take greater and greater responsibility for stormwater management,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams Monday night.

The ordinance, which will be subject to a public hearing on March 22, will establish minimum standards for stormwater management on new developments in town. It reads, “Proper management of stormwater runoff will minimize damage to public and private property, reduce the effects of development on land, control stream erosion, reduce local flooding, and maintain after development as nearly as possible the pre-development runoff characteristics.”

“This is the beginning of an evolution that will take some time…I think in the future this is going to be just another responsibility of the town,” said Williams.

The town will have to do more than in the past to direct stormwater management, Williams said.

Over time, the new approach, using ESD should eliminate flooding.

Much could change at the state level as the Maryland General Assembly proceeds, said Councilman Troy Purnell, wondering if the town should put off passing the stormwater management ordinance in order to see what the General Assembly decides.

“They could change stuff pretty rapidly,” Purnell said.

The ordinance does not, under the 2007 act, need to be passed until May 8.

“If they change the rules, we’ll change our ordinance,” said Williams.

There is legislation before state legislators that would alter the dates for implementation, said Berlin Water and Wastewater Director Jane Kreiter.

Both Worcester County and Wicomico County are waiting for the state’s decision before proceeding, Councilwoman Paula Lynch said.

“I presumed that we follow the county’s lead,” said Lynch.

The General Assembly will conclude April 12.

Purnell said he would hate to have to go back and do the ordinance over.

Town attorney Dave Gaskill suggested adding a clause to the ordinance putting the town legislation into effect at whatever date the state finally decides.

A state bill to put off implementation of the 2007 Act until 2012 looks likely to pass, Kreiter said.

The town council will consider the stormwater management ordinance at their next meeting on March 22.

“We’re going to try to stay ahead of the curve. We’re going to keep informed,” said Williams.

On a smaller scale, in the near future the town will partner with Grow Berlin Green and other sources to work on stormwater management problems in the Graham, Grice and Nelson area, which is prone to heavy flooding, forcing the streets in many cases to be closed and stranding residents. Some funding will come from the road project money in hand, the same pool of money paid for improvements to those streets.