WINCHESTER - Town Engineer Beth Rudolph received three comments on the town’s update to its stormwater regulations, from The Friends of Winter Pond, Building Commissioner Al Wile and developer Murray Hills.

The update includes a new requirement by the town that would force property owners to install infiltration systems, rain gardens or remove impervious area if a project requires a building permit and increases the impervious area by a certain square footage. Rudolph suggested 250 sq. ft. and she said the Zoning Board of Appeals uses a similar method.

These changes come with the update to the "Rules and Regulations Regarding the use of Public Sewers and Stormdrains in the Town of Winchester, Massachusetts."

Rudolph acknowledged the town last updated these regulations 14 years ago, a copy of which exists on the Engineering Department's website: :

The town hopes to use these new regulations to continue to curb flooding in town. As Rudolph noted, the town made significant investments to its flood mitigation program. She also said other towns have similar requirements including Arlington (350 sq. ft.), Belmont (increasing impervious area by >25 percent) and Watertown (500 sq. ft.).

She called her suggestion of 250 sq. ft. on the lower end. Unfortunately, for the town engineer, the Select Board all felt it was too low, with member Rich Mucci especially concerned. He wanted the trigger number around 1,000 sq. ft.

Mucci also wondered how the comments came in and Rudolph said The Friends of Winter Pond agreed with the 250 sq. ft. number while Wile thought it was too low. He also asked what Lexington does, but Rudolph said she didn’t know.

The town engineer said the idea was to catch projects that could impact stormwater runoff.

“It seems low and prejudiced to smaller lots,” Mucci said about the requirement. “These additional costs concern me.”

The costs could include removing other impervious area or installing a rain garden or infiltration system. Rudolph said they could run between $3,000 and $5,000. That could greatly impact a smaller project, Mucci said; however, Rudolph thought his proposal of 1,000 sq. ft. seemed too high.

Other members agreed that 250 sq. ft. seemed a little low, but no one wanted to raise the requirement quite as high as Mucci. Member Mariano Goluboff suggested a number somewhere in the middle like 500 sq. ft.

“We discussed this quite a bit,” Rudolph assured the board, adding how 1,000 sq. ft. of new impervious area would be a large project.

Mucci then suggested 750 sq. ft., which Select Board member Michael Bettencourt agreed with, but which chair Susan Verdicchio did not. She favored 500 sq. ft. due to concerns about cumulative impacts (i.e. multiple people adding in 100s of square feet of impervious area around town).

Goluboff, to Verdicchio’s point, said there’s a cost to nearby residents regarding additional runoff (in the event any damage occurs from flood waters due to a resident putting an addition on their home, for instance, and cutting into the backyard or pervious area). He backed the 500 sq. ft. number, as well.

Either way, as Bettencourt noted, the town can revisit this issue on a yearly basis. He also stated no opposition to the 500 sq. ft. number, noting how Winchester is unique in its density.

“It’s great to be proactive,” Mucci said to Verdicchio’s point, “but construction costs have increased.”

Like Bettencourt, he said they can always change the number.

When Verdicchio inquired about promoting the use of pervious materials (i.e. materials that catch and trap rain water), Rudolph mentioned using less expensive materials. She also said she felt more comfortable if the number were around 500 sq. ft.

“Whatever the number is, people will find a way to get under it,” Verdicchio admitted.

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