State and Local News: Stormwater Management

Nearly four years ago, the city of Wichita, Kan. proposed an ordinance on stormwater management. The new ordinance would have created overly complex, costly, and unnecessary changes to commercial real estate development projects, hence, creating an inequality within the city. Economic development would essentially be pitted against existing properties. Any plans for development would be delayed and highly scrutinized under the proposed stormwater requirements whereas existing property owners were left untouched by the proposed rule.

Typically stormwater is absorbed naturally; however, in many cities there are impervious surfaces (i.e. streets, sidewalks, parking lots). The large amounts of water after a storm could cause downstream flooding, infrastructure damage or cross contaminate bodies of water. Consequently, governments are compelled to take some sort of action. Often local governments cannot foresee the unintended consequences if thoughtful and information collection periods are not routine prior to issuing a stormwater rule. In the case of Wichita’s stormwater proposal, the plan was a far stretch from the standard U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recommendations.

Following the release of the proposed stormwater plan in 2009, the CCIM Kansas Chapter built a coalition with local real estate groups to inform the city of the potential problems and possible backlash of delaying economic growth for new development plans. After years of advocacy and outreach, the city of Wichita not only reversed implementation of stormwater management rules, but asked the CCIM Kansas Chapter to serve as an advisor on a newly created Storm Water Advisory Board. Further, the Wichita City Council decided to take a regional approach, slowly implementing stormwater management plans that have proven successful in comparable cities.

Ultimately this was a huge success for the CCIM Kansas Chapter and CCIMs are now considered an industry expert advising the City Council on stormwater management rule making.

CCIM Chapters throughout the United States need to be aware of possible changes to stormwater management laws and proposals at the state and local levels. In some instances stormwater management plans include post-construction maintenance, not only delaying new development projects (in the case of Wichita), but adding substantial costs to maintain stormwater quality and quantity. The stormwater management costs have the potential to unnecessarily drive up the price of the property. In many cases, a reasonable approach to stormwater management can be taken, especially when stakeholders are active and in communication with local government bodies.

If you would like more information about coalition building or local grassroots lobbying, contact the CCIM Institute legislative affairs department at