In July, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District(MWRD) introduced a new Watershed Management Ordinance which would impose requirements on new development as well as on most redevelopment in suburban Cook County.

The proposal called for specific stormwater retention requirements (calculations about how much stormwater is permitted to run off a property to prevent flooding).

At public hearings held in August, the Illinois Association of REALTORS® expressed concerns that these requirements could have a negative impact on commercial redevelopment in Cook County. Flood prevention is important, but the proposal was so inflexible on the retention/volume control requirements that it could make most redevelopment very difficult and cost-prohibitive.

The measure was the subject of a Call to Action by the Illinois Association of REALTORS® Cook County members, and on Oct. 3, the Board of Commissioners passed the proposed Watershed Management Ordinance.

Prior to passage, an important change was made to the draft ordinance:

The provisions regarding “volume control”(retention requirements) were revised to provide a measure of flexibility.  The current release rate of .30 cfs (cubic feet per second per acre)will be in effect through January, 2019.  (Release rates are a measurement of how much stormwater can run off a site. The goal of the ordinance is to require detention of the first one-inch of rainfall on the site/property.)

After Jan., 2019, the release rates will be set by watershed.  So the release rates will range from .15cfs to .30cfs after the District reviews actual experience with newly developed sites and with re-developed sites. The original ordinance proposal set the release rate for all of suburban Cook at .15cfs.

This change is significant because a low release rate could make a lot of infill development very difficult and costly.  Also, stifling redevelopment opportunities will negatively affect the economic development plans of many suburban municipalities as well as the tax base.

After a five-year review, the release rates will be set by watershed (there are six watersheds in Cook County) and the new release rates will be set between .15cfs and .30cfs.  This is an improvement over a strict adherence to the lower release rate of .15cfs. The change provides an element of flexibility that the IAR was seeking.

MWRD Executive Director David St. Pierre assured us that we would have ongoing representation on the WMO Technical Advisory Committee.  This will ensure that IAR will have “a seat at the table” on future discussions on the implementation of this ordinance.

The IAR Call for Action (sent to all Cook County REALTORS® in late August) had a terrific response rate:  nearly 4,500 messages sent to the nine MWRD Commissioners.