by: Stephanie Coueignoux Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A controversial law that allows developers in Charlotte to pay money to get out of cleaning the water pollution they generate could live on for another six months.
And city leaders are considering extending it when it's set to expire later this month.
Rick Roti, president of the Charlotte Public Tree Fund, said he’s upset there’s no vetting process for the developers.
“Any developer can decide, ‘I can pay a fee and just not control pollution.’ That's a one-size-fits-all approach," Roti said.
In an effort to spur development in 2011, Charlotte leaders amended an ordinance to allow developers to pay so they wouldn't have to clean up their pollution.
That fee is set to expire at the end of April and on Wednesday, the Environment Committee voted to recommend extending it for six more months.
Councilman Ed Driggs said he voted in favor of that extension because “it takes away a barrier. What we need to be careful of about, although we have to protect our environment, we can't do so in such a way to create real obstacles to development and progress.
Driggs also pointed to how expensive clean-up can be. While it varies from site to site, Cato Corporate told them it would be too costly to build an on-site pollution clean-up system just for an addition.
The company said the cost alone would be enough of a reason for it to move its entire operation to South Carolina, according to city leaders.
One of the environmental concerns involves the pavement. Pavement and other impervious surfaces can’t absorb water.
That water then carries the ground pollutant straight to the storm drain.
That storm water eventually ends up in streams and other waterways.
This law requires the city to use these fees to build off-site ponds to capture the polluted storm water and clean it. But some argue since it doesn't stop the pollution at the source, it's not enough.
At Wednesday’s meeting, city leaders admitted the off-site system doesn’t capture all the pollutants. But they said these fees generate enough money for them to clean up twice the amount of pollutants they would otherwise.
The City Council will vote on this extension Monday.
Part of that extension would also require the city to look at its developer approval process.
The city said 10 projects have used this fee instead of building an on-site pollution filter system.
* McDonald’s at 1035 Wendover Road
* Bank of the Ozarks, 4126 Park Road
* Southpark Auto Bell, 5606 Park Road
* AAA Montford Drive, 1812 Montford Drive
* Cato Corporate Building Addition, 8100 Denmark Road
* Hendrick Luxury Collision Center, 5141 East Independence Road
* Hendrick Motors of Charlotte Autohaus, 5201 East Independence Road
* Harris Teeter BAllantyne, 15007 John J Delany Drive
* Walgreen’s, 7824 Pineville Matthews Road
* 7-Eleven #35580, 7511 Pineville Matthews Road
The city says they’ve earned a total of $756,660 from those projects.
On Eyewitness News at 5, we'll show you what we found when we went to several of those development sites.