Low Impact Development Techniques Yield High Returns for Michigan Communities

While all communities need water to survive, community leaders know too much all at once can pose a detriment or even a danger. Stormwater management is a perennial concern, with significant economic and environmental challenges.

Now two Michigan communities, together with their McKenna and Conservation Design Forum planning team, are enlisting new approaches to the age-old challenge, resulting in more predictable water supplies, less negative impact on the environment and economic savings as well.

“Traditionally, managing stormwater has either involved major infrastructure–like detention ponds and storm sewers­–or required communities to drain water directly to lakes or wetlands,” said Senior Planner Mike Deem. “But both of these options are bad for the environment and tie up land that could otherwise be used for development. So McKenna has been working hard to bring client communities more progressive options, and with that we’re pleased with the results.”

For example, leaders in Walled Lake, Michigan rejected retention ponds and drainage to the lake and instead turned to a third option. By implementing Low Impact Development (LID) techniques, specifically permeable pavements and rain gardens, Walled Lake will be able to reduce the stress on its stormwater system and improve water quality across the city. These options are also more aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly.

“Walled Lake is extremely pleased with the new concepts to improve their drainage problems,” said Mr. Deem. “And both residents and staff have commented that the rain gardens will be attractive additions to the downtown. It’s a benefit all around.”

Nearby, Holly Township has taken a different but also successful approach. In an effort to protect its “Up North in Oakland County” character, Holly Township updated its parking ordinance, seeking to reduce impermeable surfaces. Per the ordinance, the Township now has lower parking requirements and material recommendations. New developments can only exceed the recommended amount of parking if they include permeable pavement and address stormwater runoff though LID techniques.

Walled Lake and Holly Township are great examples of how good planning and creative ideas can bring new solutions to an age-old challenge.

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