You are on page 1of 20

SETTING LOGICAL

SETBACKS FOR
RIVERS AND
CREEKS
SHRIRAM LELE & DONTREY GARNETT
CP-6016 GROWTH MANAGEMENT LAW
PROF. SETH WEISSMAN
WHAT IS A SETBACK? & WHAT IS A BUFFER?
A setback is the distance which a A riparianbufferis a strip of forested or

building or other structure is set back vegetated land bordering a body of water and

from a street or road, a river or other is important in protecting water quality. The

stream, a shore or floodplain, or any word riparian means next to the banks of

other place which is deemed to need streams,rivers, lakes, estuaries or other

protection. waters.
WHY SETBACKS ARE NEEDED FOR RIVERS & CREEKS

Protect scenic resources, water quality, and


natural Creekside habitat, including
opportunities for wildlife habitation, rest, and
movement.
Further the restoration of damaged or degraded
habitat, especially where a continuous riparian
habitat corridor can be established.
Allow for natural changes that may occur within
the creek corridor.
Help avoid damage to development from
erosion and flooding.
WHAT IS ALLOWED TO BE BUILT IN THE
SETBACKS
Bridges
Engineered drainage outlet
Minor landscape features not
requiring grading
Non-invasive landscaping installation
Raised decks
Repairs to existing structures and
facilities
Trails
Transparent fencing which does not
block water flow
WHAT IS PROHIBITED IN THE SETBACK
AREAS
Detention basins
Grading (cut or fill)
Over-excavation
Parking, driveways, other vehicular
surfaces
Removal of riparian vegetation, unless
permitted by the local authority
Retaining walls
Septic systems
Structures
RIPARIAN BUFFERS AND SETBACKS
WHAT IS THE RULE IN ATLANTA &
STATE OF GA
Riparian Buffer Requirements: The loss of vegetation increases in impervious surface
and increases in storm water runoff associated with urbanization on can have severe
impacts on streams, including scouring, bank collapse, increased erosion and sediment,
loss of habitat and reduce on in water quality. Stream buffers, along with other protection
measures, can help protect streams and preserve water quality by filtering of pollutants,
reducing erosion and sedimentation, protecting and stabilizing stream banks, preserving
vegetation and providing both aquatic and land habitat. The City requires a 75 foot
buffer on all perennial and intermittent streams. It is more stringent than the minimum
25- foot buffer required by the State of Georgia.
INTENT OF UNDISTURBED BUFFERS
AND IMPERVIOUS SURFACES
Protect, restore and maintain the chemical,
physical and biological integrity of streams and
their water resources
Protect public water supplies
Maintain base flow of streams
Minimize erosion and control sedimentation
Providing infiltration for storm water runoff
Minimize impervious surfaces close to streams
Provide Riparian Wildlife Habitats and promote
desirable aquatic habitat.
EXEMPTIONS
The minimum setback requirements of
this Development Code apply to all uses
except for the following:
A perpendicular stream crossing by utility
lines, transportation right-of-way, Forestry or
silviculture, erosion control and bank
stabilization activities
All Unpaved foot and Paved foot trails/paths for
public use no greater than 10 feet wide
Access to public water supply facilities that
must be on the water including boat ramps,
docks, foot trails leading directly to the river,
fishing platforms and overlooks
VARIANCE
Must meet Variance Hardship Criteria
Unusual shape or topography of the
property
construction or repair of a structure which,
by its nature, must be located within the
buffer, i.e.(dams, dock, and boat
launches)
Level One Variance is a hardship-based
appeal subject to the Directors decision
Secondary Variance is a hardship based-
appeal subject to the Board of Zoning
Appeals decision
ISSUES WITH REGULATION
There has been no amendments to the
Georgia Erosion and Sediment Control Act in
the 25 years
Metropolitan Setback Regulations are built on
state guidelines that are not supported by
any scientific methods like flood history of
the region, resulting in buffer distances
being arbitrary
This creates controversy amongst
stakeholders and confusion for land owners.
The changes in the regulations affect the
downstream and upstream property values.
MAJOR ACTS AND ORDINANCES FOR
SETBACKS

IN GEORGIA
Metro River Protection Act (1973)
Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act
(1975)
Chattahoochee Corridor Plan (1998)
METROPOLITAN RIVER PROTECTION
ACT

(1973)
Georgia General Assembly enacted the
Metropolitan River Protection Act (Georgia Code 12-
5-440 et seq.) to protect the Chattahoochee River
as it is the main source of drink water is the Atlanta
Region. It established a 2000-foot Corridor along
both banks of the Chattahoochee and its
impoundments for the 48 miles between Buford
Dam and Peachtree Creek. The act was amended in
1998 to extend the Corridor an additional 36 miles
to the downstream limits of Fulton and Douglas
counties (the limit of the Atlanta region).
GA EROSION AND SEDIMENTATION ACT (1975 )
The Georgia Erosion and Sedimentation Act requires
that each county or municipality adopt a
comprehensive ordinance establishing procedures
governing land-disturbing activities based on the
minimum requirements established by the Act Permits
are required for specified "land-disturbing activities,"
including the construction or modification of
manufacturing facilities, construction activities, certain
activities associated with transportation facilities,
activities on marsh hammocks, etc. With certain
constraints, permitting authority can be delegated to
local governments.
CHATTAHOOCHEE CORRIDOR PLAN
(1998)
The plan includes development standards that reduce the
impacts of development on the river using the existing
characteristics of the land and vegetation as a guide to identify
development suitability. It is based on ARCs 1972
Chattahoochee Corridor Study.

Buffers Standards

50-foot undisturbed vegetative buffer along the river and its


impoundments.
35-foot undisturbed vegetative buffer along flowing streams in
the corridor.
150-foot impervious surface setback along the river and its
impoundments.
METRO PLANNING DIVISIONS
The Metropolitan North Georgia Water
Planning District (Metro Water District) is
staffed by the Atlanta Regional Commission
(ARC) and includes 15 counties and 92 cities.
The division is responsible for the protection
of the Chattahoochee River for several key
reasons:

The river is the regions primary source of


drinking water.

It is a major recreation area.

It is one of the southern-most trout streams


in the United States, and one of the very few
located in a major metropolitan area.

THINGS TO
How much Buffer width to achieve water quality goals is needed to serve as a filter
RETHINK:
for polluted storm water? Science says 100 in some places, but what is a good policy that
balances growth and protection?
How to measure the buffer, i.e. where do you start measuring from the point of
wrested vegetation as required in the GA Erosion and Sedimentation Act or the top of
the bank or some other point?
What training is required for state/local inspectors who enforce the law?
What enforcement measures are most useful to prevent buffer destruction? Stop
work orders? Penalties?
How are variances for hardships issued what does the developer/applicant have to
prove to be able to encroach on the stream or put it in a pipe?
What exemptions should be allowed? Forestry and agriculture (non metro) are always
exempt from environmental laws, but what about a forested site that is being cut for
development?
REFERANCES
ARC CHATTAHOOCHEE CORRIDOR STUDY- file:///C:/
Users/itssh/Downloads/ep_chatt_corridor_study_7-72.pdf

ARC METROPOLITAN RIVER PROTECTION ACT (1973)


http://www.atlantaregional.com/environment/water/mrpa-chattahoochee-corridor-protection

FULTON COUNTY STREAM BUFFER ORDINANCES


http://www.fultoncountyga.gov/images/stories/ECD/final-stream-buff-03-06.pdf

GEORGIA EROSION & SEDIMENTATION ACT (1975)


http://www.fultoncountyga.gov/images/stories/ECD/Permits/Erosion_and_Sedimentation_Control_C
ounty_Code_05_-
3Final.pdf

THE GEORGIA ENVIRONMENTAL DESKBOOK


https://gaenvlaw.wordpress.com/documents/riparian-buffers-and-stream-setbacks /

DISTRICT STREAM BUFFER ORDINANCE


http://documents.northgeorgiawater.org/MNGWPD_StreamBufferModOrd.pdf
Some of the worst damage to natural river systems comes from landowners trying to prevent
their riverside property from being swept away during the high water that comes from spring
runoff. Though flooding is a natural and essential river process, landowners attempt to protect
their property by adding rocks that raise and fortify the banks. Called riprapping, this common
practice may save some houses, but the tall, rock-lined banks provide little to no fish or wildlife
habitat. Even worse, they constrain the rivers flood energy and force it farther downstream,
making things even worse for homeowners and communities there and encouraging them to
riprap their own banks.
. In Riparian Buffer Zones: Functions and Recommended Widths (Ellen Hawes and Markelle Smith, Yale School of Forestry,
April 2005), studies on recommended buffer widths have been summarized:

Erosion/sediment control: 30 feet to 98 feet


Water quality:
Nutrients 49 feet to 164 feet
Pesticides 49 feet to 328 feet
Biocontaminants (fecal, etc.) 30 feet or more
Aquatic habitat:
Wildlife 33 feet to 164 feet
Litter/debris 50 feet to 100 feet
Temperature 30 feet to 230 feet
Terrestrial habitat: 150 feet to 330 feet